(Sarasota, FL, January 27, 2010): On display now prominently in Selby Gardens’ tropical Conservatory is a magnificent specimen of Angraecum sesquipedale, a beautiful orchid with a fascinating history that supports the theory of natural selection.
The comet orchid was first discovered in exotic Madagascar during the early 1800’s. Its white, waxy flowers are fragrant at night, luring nocturnal rainforest insects with their seductive scent. Early European biologists were puzzled by the fact that the nectar reward for the hungry pollinators was contained at the bottom of the flowers’ unusually long nectar spurs, out of their reach.
English naturalist Charles Darwin became interested in this orchid species, and in 1862 he theorized that in order for this plant to have evolved such a long nectar spur, there must be an insect with an equally long proboscis (mouthpart) to pollinate it. He received ridicule from the scientific community at his suggestion that such a bizarre creature must exist. Twenty-one years after his death, a subspecies of the Morgan’s sphinx moth with a 12” proboscis was discovered in the Madagascar forests, and it was indeed a pollinator of the gorgeous comet orchid. The comet orchid will only be blooming for a short time, so make sure to see it while it is on display. Come and see how Selby Gardens is growing!
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a respected center for research and education as well as a famous orchid showplace. The Gardens is located at 811 South Palm Avenue in Sarasota and is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Christmas day. For further information call 941.366.5731 or visit www.selby.org.