Orchidaceae — Earth’s Most Beautiful Orchids
Caleana major - large duck orchid
Caleana major – large duck orchid
Caleana major, commonly known as the large duck orchid, is a small orchid found in eastern and southern Australia.
This terrestrial plant features a remarkable flower, resembling a duck in flight. The flower is an attractant to insects, such as male sawflies which pollinate the flower in a process known as pseudocopulation.
Caleana major is a tuberous, perennial herb, usually growing to a height of 200–400 mm (8–20 in) with a single reddish, narrow lance-shaped leaf, 40–130 mm (2–5 in) long, 4–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in) wide and often spotted, emerging at its base. Up to five shiny reddish brown flowers, 20–25 mm (0.8–1 in) long and 6–7 mm (0.2–0.3 in) wide are borne on a thin, wiry flowering stem.
The sepals and petals are 12–15 mm (0.5–0.6 in) long and have pointed tips. The column has broad wings which the dorsal sepal and petals almost touch and the lateral sepals turn back wing-like behind the flower.
The labellum is 6–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in) long and 5–6 mm (0.20–0.24 in) wide and resembles the head of a duck on a strap-like “neck”. Flowering occurs from September to January.
The flying duck orchid occurs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, growing in eucalyptus woodland, coastal or swampy shrubland and heathland. Mostly near the coast, but occasionally at higher altitudes.
The plant is pollinated by insects. The labellum is held above the flower by a sensitive strap-like stalk. When touched, the labellum turns rapidly downward, trapping a visiting insect between the labellum and column wings.
Caleana major has been difficult to maintain in cultivation. Plants flower for one or sometimes two years but progressively weaken until they die.
The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family.
Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants. The Orchidaceae have about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 genera.
The determination of which family is larger is still under debate, because verified data on the members of such enormous families are continually in flux. Regardless, the number of orchid species is nearly equal to the number of bony fishes, more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species.
The family encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants.
The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species). It also includes Vanilla (the genus of the vanilla plant), the type genus Orchis, and many commonly cultivated plants such as Phalaenopsis and Cattleya.
Moreover, since the introduction of tropical species into cultivation in the 19th century, horticulturists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.