The structure of orchids

We sent DKG, and his macro lens, to look at the common spotted orchids in Village Green.

Orchid flowers appear very variable but are, in fact, all built to a unique but simple pattern. Orchids have three sepals, three petals and a column which contains the reproductive organs. Sepals are the petal-like structures that  enclose a flower bud.

The lower petal ( the lip or labellum) provides a platform for visiting insects; in the common spotted orchid the lip is deeply divided into three lobes. The wings, very obvious in these pictures, are the lateral sepals. The two upper petals and the third (dorsal) sepal form a hood over the reproductive column.

structure of common spotted orchid flower

In the reproductive column the male (stamen) and female (pistil) structures are fused under an anther cap. The anther cap forms the dramatic centre of the flower and, in the common spotted orchid, looks like the striped nose of a tiny badger peeping out. The anther cap’s function seems to be the prevention of self-pollination.

All orchids, even the show-off tropical kind, are variations on this simple theme.

If you have the knees for it, take a magnifying glass or lens down to Village Green and have a really close look at these fascinating flowers.

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Pictures by DKG

More orchids here:

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