Oil on Canvas, 30" x 30", 2020
Orchid: Stanhopea embreei
Native Range: Ecuador and Peru
Pollinator: Male Euglossine bees
Conservation Status: Unknown
“This painting highlights one species in a large and fascinating group of orchids found in Mexico, Central and South America. Named after a 20th century American botanist, Embre’s Stanhopea grows in cloud forests on the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and Peru.
The unusual pendant flowers resemble a bird in flight and are deliciously scented like vanilla cream icing. Who is the intended recipient of this flower bomb of fragrance?
Not humans, but specialized jewel-like insects known as Euglossine or orchid bees. These little iridescent Romeo’s collect fragrance compounds in tidy packets on their hind legs, not for food, but to attract female bees.
But what’s in it for the orchid? Pollination, of course! Co-evolving with the orchid bees, Stanhopeas have ‘fall-through flowers’ ingeniously designed to guide the bee to the orchid’s pollinia.
Downward facing flowers attract the bee to the scent source at the center of the flower near the eye spot. As the bee collects fragrance, he slips and falls backwards through the uniquely shaped horns that guide him to the tip of the column, where the pollinia is attached to his body by a sticky adhesive disk.
And the bee thought he was Don Juan.”