Flying Duck Orchid – Its Flowers Resembling a Duck in Flight
Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana) is a small orchid that can be found in eastern and southern Australia and New Zealand. This is terrestrial plant features amazing flowers resembling a duck in flight. The flower is also inducing insects, such as male sawflies which pollinate the flower in a process recognized as pseudocopulation.
In 1986 this orchid was featured on an Australian postage stamp. The flying duck orchid is encountered as a terrestrial herb, up to 50 cm tall. And 2 to 4 flowers grow on the green stem. Furthermore, a single leaf appears near the base of the stalk. It is generally prostrate, narrow-lanceolate, to 12 cm long, and 8 mm wide, often spotted.
The Flying Duck Orchid flower color is normally reddish-brown, almost 15 to 20 mm long. However, in some rare cases, the flower can be greenish with dark spots. The plant is pollinated by insects. A sensitive strap is attached to the flower, which is triggered by vibration.
The plant is flowering from September to January occurring from Queensland to South Australia, to even Tasmania, and this plant can be found in eucalyptus woodland in coastal or swampy shrubland and heathland. Typically near the coast, but sporadically at higher altitudes. Due to the flower’s small size, it is hard to notice in the wild plant.
The duck orchid is perpetual but blooms in late spring or early summer. At up to 45 centimeters in height, you might think it would stand out in its natural habitat. However, because of the reddy-brown colors of both the stem and flowers, it moulds into its Australian surroundings so proficiently that it becomes almost invisible unless you are purposely seeking out its company.
The genus Caleana was named after George Caley, an early botanical collector. Latin for “larger”, major refers to the contrast with the other smaller Duck orchid, Paracaleana minor. The original specimen of this plant was gathered at Bennelong Point, the present day site of the Sydney Opera House in September 1803.
Moreover in 1810, the species originally appeared in the scientific literature, Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, authored by the prolific Scottish botanist, Robert Brown. Therefore; Caleana has been difficult to maintain in cultivation because plants flower for one or sometimes two years but progressively weaken until they die. If you’ve abruptly been gripped by the desire to own your very own duck orchid then you will be very disappointed.
Regardless of several attempts, this orchid stubbornly refuses to be propagated. This is because the roots of caleana have a symbiotic relationship with the vegetative part of a fungus which only thrives in the part of Australia in which it originates. The fungus supports the plant to stave off infections and without its assistance, the duck orchid never lasts long.