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Cephalanthera rubra - pollination

Posted by
Johan Dierckx (Wijnegem, Belgium) on 30 July 2011 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

Series: European Terrestrial Orchids

Cephalanthera rubra (NL: Rood bosvogeltje / EN: Red helleborine / DE: Rote Waldvöglein) is an orchid found in Europe, north Africa and parts of Asia. With a color closer to pink than red it is one of the most attracting orchids in Europe. The species can be found mainly in beechwoods. It is a shy flower: even when it flowers, there may be more non-flowering plants in the vicinity, and it can remain in a vegetative state for many years.
In "Entomologicheskoe Obozrenie 1990 Vol. 69 No. 3 pp. 534-537" the authors Nazarov and Ivanov already described how Chelostoma distinctum and C. fuliginosum (two bees of the genus Chelostoma - (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae)) were observed to pollinate the orchid C. rubra, which offers no reward to pollinators, and also the bellflower, Campanula taurica, which supplies both pollen and nectar. The bees are attracted to the orchid because it mimics the appearance of C. taurica, and the flowering periods of the 2 species coincide. It is suggested that Chelostoma bees are attracted to cream-coloured ribs on the lip of the orchid flower as they resemble pollen sources.
In this image you can see a bee (probably also of genus Chelostoma) with the purple pollinarium of the orchid stuck to its back. With it's precious load, the bee is ready to take off and hopefully will visit an other specimen of the orchid to accomplish pollination.

More images and info on European terrestrial orchids can be found on my Wordpress-Blog on European Orchids

Image: Thillot (FR) - 03/06/2011

Canon EOS 400D 1/320 second F/8.0 ISO 200 150 mm

© Johan Dierckx

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All species are photographed in their natural habitat, without cutting or capturing them, and with maximal respect and the least possible disturbance to the environment.

(To see species in the same taxonomic rank (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus), please use the tags provided with the image. The last tag is the Iso-code for the country where the image was taken. Image-date in DD/MM/YYYY format.)

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Jean from Netherlands

Hoi Johan,

Wat een mooie foto, dat is geluk hebben!

12 Jan 2015 7:16pm

@Jean: Dank je, Jean, jammer dat ik de soort niet verder kan determineren op basis van de foto's - het is wel een mooie illustratie van het mechanisme. Voor meer info kan je me uiteraard altijd persoonlijk contacteren.

Canon EOS 400D
1/320 second
ISO 200
150 mm