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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Open at last... But what is it?

It's not very often that we flower an Acineta, so there has been tremendous anticipation as the spike of this Acineta erythroxantha has elongated to an astonishing 28 inches. Bud development has been agonizing. ('Slow as Christmas' is the phrase around here.) But at last we have open flowers. And a surprise...

This isn't actually Acineta erythroxantha at all, as the label would indicate. The lip is very different. We received this plant in 2002 as A. erythroxantha from a Panamanian source. Could this be the Panamanian species, Acineta mireyae?

For an answer, I'm turning to Dr. Mark Whitten at University of Florida-Gainesville and Dr. Günther Gerlach at Münich Botanical Garden, rockstars of Euglossine bee-orchid research. Acineta identification is tricky and I want a definitive answer. Dr. Gerlach is the author of the original 2003 publication of  A. mireyae, so I'm sending pictures of these flowers, dissected. We'll see what he says.

Acineta belongs to the Stanhopeinae subtribe, and like Stanhopea, they are pollinated by Euglossine bees of the genus Euplusia.

The waxy fragrant flowers are carried on a pendant raceme. The sepals and petals form a hood around the column, creating a tunnel for the bee to enter. The bee obtains the fragrance by scratching at the base of the lip inside the tunnel. As the bee backs out, the viscidium of the pollinarium is stuck to the bee's scutellum. If the bee enters another Acineta flower, the pollinia are placed on the stigma as the bee backs out, and thus the flower is pollinated.


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