Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bulbophyllum echinolabium: Would You Like Flies with That?

Bulbophyllum echinolabium
The Wisconsin Orchid Society put on a fantastic show last week and I was delighted to attend. It was also the fall meeting of the MidAmerican Orchid Congress. I was surrounded by good people and fine orchids all weekend. However, I learned that some of the best looking orchids are not so welcoming -- unless you're a fly. A case in point is the lovely Bulbophyllum echinolabium  selected for AOS judging at the Wisconsin show.  

Cats and Catts readers might recall from earlier posts that orchid shows often feature two rounds of judging. The first round, the ribbon judging, compares each orchid against other orchids entered into the show. The second round of judging involves accredited orchid judges from the American Orchid Society selecting plants for further consider for national awards. Here, the orchids are compared against previously awarded plants of the same species or type. 
Paph. niveum, not smelly, Wisconsin 2011

I'm not an orchid judge but I love to sit in on these judging sessions if given an opportunity. You can learn a lot. Orchid judges assemble around a table with the plant as the centerpiece. Someone carefully measures the petals and sepals. Another retrieves information from a computerized database. They discuss the flower's shape, form, size, color, and other qualities. It's exciting. (Here, it's worth noting a few other things I find exciting -- old movies, contract bridge, and historical research -- just to put things into perspective). 

Anyway, the judges' conversations are invariably fascinating but it was difficult for me to focus because the flower smelled like rotting meat. Bulbophyllum are notoriously smelly, and that's why I don't have any in my collection. I'd rather have something like a Paph. niveum because it's pretty to look at and it doesn't stink. But I respect the Bulbophyllum genus and recognize the its evolutionary brilliance. Some of the species resemble rotting meat and have developed a bright red lip and horrid scent to attract carrion fly pollinators. And the flower's diabolical plan worked! A pack of green flies swarmed around it during the thirty minutes or so it was on the table. I saw the Bulbophyllum in its exhibit and, there too, a bunch of fly boys desperately buzzed around trying to get the rotting flesh. It's a beautiful flower, but I'm content to let others grow it.


Orchid de dangau said...

Nice bloom, but smell not so good.

gaby said...

I think your interests are exciting. :) Gorgeous flower for sure!