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3222Scent of blue orchids

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  • Peter Bernhardt
    Mar 24, 2014
    Dear Colleagues:

     A couple of years ago we sent you a paper we wrote on the pollination of blue sun orchids (Thelymitra species) by bees in Western Australia.  Here is a copy of the second paper on this study.  

    Remember, the orchids had an fragrance but they made no nectar or edible pollen for their bees.  We suspected these flowers mimicked the flowers of pollen and/or nectar producing species of some other blue flowering species in the Australian spring.  Here's a comparison of the odors made by the orchids and the odors made by the giant blue flag (Orthrosanthus laxus; Iridaceae) blooming at the same site at the same time.  This blue flag offers edible, granular pollen but no nectar.  Retha took ALL the photos and I think her work is excellent.  She was also in charge of the devices that "sucked out" the scent from the flowers (see Figure 3) provided by the Raguso lab at Cornell.  As you will see, the dominant molecule in the odor of the blue flag, Thelymitra macrophylla and its hybrid with T. crinita has been identified in a wide variety of insect-pollinated flowers all over the world.

    Peter Bernhardt