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Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Tulip Orchids

Here to rescue us from January drabness is an welcome burst of winter flowers on three of our Tulip Orchid (Anguloa) taxa: clowesii, virginalis and x ruckeri. It's not very often that we have three different taxa flowering simultaneously, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at each one. They are lovely.

Anguloas have large waxy fragrant flowers that attract male Euglossine bees. This particular Anguloa clowesii has a touch of wintergreen in its fragrance. The genus Anguloa is sometimes called the Cradle Orchid because the flower has a hinged lip. Let's open up a flower and see how that works.

The interior of the flower is easier to see after I remove one petal and one sepal.

The lip of an Anguloa is hinged. It is attached to the column foot by a narrow band that allows the lip to swing back and forth between the sepals and the column. I love plants with moveable parts.

According to N.A. van der Cingel in An Atlas of Orchid Pollination (2001), the male Euglossine bee lands on the lip, turns and backs into the flower. He holds onto the edges of the petals with his middle legs while scratching for fragrance with his front legs. On leaving, he releases its hold on the petals and his weight tips the lip against the column. The pollinarium is attached to his abdomen. I suppose bees are accustomed to holding onto moving surfaces and don't find this trapeze act unnerving.

The lip in dorsal view, a sturdy boat-shaped platform for the bee.

The underside of the lip.

Anguloa clowesii grows as an epiphyte or terrestrial at around 1600 meters elevation in Colombia and Venezuela. In cultivation they are often deciduous, although in our greenhouse they rarely lose all their leaves.

Next: Anguloa x ruckeri.


  1. Wonderful post! Whenever I visit the Orchid Center, I always ask random strangers to stop and smell these. I absolutely love them. :-)

    1. Thanks, Kevin, I'm glad you like them! They are amazing plants.


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