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Friday, August 21, 2015

Ida cinnabarina

Such a shy plant, this Ida (syn. Sudamerlycastecinnabarina. Its nodding flower faces the ground, the interior visible only to surface dwellers and I had to get down on my hands and knees in the Tropical High Elevation House and gently prop the flower on a Macleania leaf in order to get an eye level view. I was startled to find a bold lip the color of cinnabar.

Cinnabar is the common name of mercuric sulfide, the ore from which mercury is extracted. The bright scarlet mineral was at one time the source of the pigment used in Chinese red lacquer.

Ida cinnabarina is a large terrestrial, or sometimes lithophytic orchid that grows at 1900 to 2600 meters elevation in bright light in Ecuador, Peru, and possibly Colombia. Henry Oakeley, in Lycaste, Ida and Anguloa (2008), states that the flowers secrete nectar from the base of the sepals and from the underside of the lip. 'Streams of small black ants form endless chains collecting the nectar, and in turn it is proposed, protecting the flower from hungry caterpillars.' But the ants are not the pollinators. According to Oakeley, Calaway Dodson reported seeing the flowers visited by Xylocopas (carpenter) bees at BaƱos, Ecuador. Between dusk and midnight, the flowers are said to be fragrant of wintergreen. Looks like I'll be returning after dark to find out.

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