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Biology

The colour, patterns and structure of Paphiopedilum barbatum flowers, which appear in spring (2), have all evolved to attract insect pollinators (3) (4). An insect, lured to the attractive flower, will be guided by the colourful markings and ridges to the shoe-like lip (3). The inside walls of the lip are slippery and so the only way out for the insect is via a ladder of hairs that takes the insect past the stigma where pollen is deposited (3) (4). After pollination, the petals fade, the stigma closes up, and the ovary begins to swell. The ovary gradually develops into a green pod that turns yellow as it matures. When mature, the pod bursts open to release powdery, almost microscopic seeds that are so light they can be carried on air currents for hundreds of kilometres (3). Wherever the tiny seeds lands, they will only germinate if a certain fungus is present. The thread-like strands (or hyphae) that make up the fungus penetrate the orchid seed, and the seed then begins to digest the hyphae, thus gaining the nutrients required for growth (5).

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Source: ARKive

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