Wildflowers: Churchill’s Orchids
Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants on the planet, with as many as 25 000 species listed. This being said, individual sightings of orchids are relatively rare. When we think of orchids, we think of showy tropical epiphytes, living up in the trees, absorbing moisture in the air for their nutrients. Here in Churchill, though, you have to look down to the ground to see them.
There are nine or so species of orchids around our parts, and though small, they are all totally impressive, both aesthetically and in their habits.
The pretty, fragrant flowers are designed to lure insects. Once inside, they get trapped in the mouth of the flower, buzzing around, covering themselves with pollen. When they finally find their way out, and make their way to the next flower, they deposit that pollen and pick up this pollen and do a little pollination.
Each flower may produce thousands of seeds, though few ever germinate (so don’t pick!) Orchid seeds are virtually devoid of nutrient stores. Instead they rely on special fungi (mycorrhizae) in the ground attaching themselves to them, to absorb and pass on nutrients to the growing plant. This relationship may continue, even when the plant has leaves and is capable of photosynthesis (so don’t pick!)
Prepared by Carmen Spiech