Thursday, September 12, 2013

Approximately male Catasetum Orchidglade intersex flowers

My plant of Catasetum Orchidglade has bloomed many times over the years.  The inflorescence normally bears only male flowers, or infrequently, female flowers.  On very rare occasions the plant has produced intersex flowers.  I don’t know what causes this.  The phenomenon of intersex flowers has fascinated and vexed orchid growers and taxonomists for centuries.  This account is about one time in which my plant produced an inflorescence with a few intersex flowers that were an approximation of the male form.

In this particular inflorescence the first flower opened as an intersex that was almost completely female except for the sepals, petals and a bit of the lip.  But the rest of the flowers in the inflorescence were male flowers with shapes that approximated the shape of a female flower without getting it quite right.  Unfortunately all the male flowers were stripped of their pollen by insects before they opened fully.

But you can see that flowers that were supposed to be quite flat and wide were instead massive and chubby.  Not two flowers of the inflorescence were exactly alike.  The last flowers in the inflorescence had typical male colors and pollen ejection mechanism but their shapes differed wildly from both the typical male and female flower form.

The program that makes the flowers male or female went awry and produced flowers that tried to approximate the female form while preserving the unique characteristics of the male flower.  The result was flowers that were like an intermediate flower designed by a committee.  Even if the flowers had opened fully, the distorted shape means that the insect would not have been in the right position to receive the pollen when the pollen throwing mechanist was triggered.  

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