Orchids: The Masters Of Lying, Cheating & Stealing

Orchids: The Masters Of Lying, Cheating & Stealing

Thanks to Curtin University and the University of Western Australia for sponsoring this video. Also, special thanks to Kingsley Dixon and the Orchid Specialist Group of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.

If you want to learn more about this topic, here are some handy keywords to get your googling started:
– Mycelium
– Mycorrizhae: a fungus that grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic relationship.
– Mycoheterotroph: A plant that is completely reliant on fungus for all of its nutrition.
– Sexual deception: A trick used by numerous orchid species of looking and/or smelling like female insects in order to draw male insects to their flowers (for pollination)
– Food deception: Rather than offering pollinators real food rewards (such as nectar or pollen), some orchids merely mimic the looks and smells of other, nearby flowers that offer such rewards.
– Pollinia: In most flowering plants, pollen is a powdery substance made up of tons of individual pollen grains. But orchids pack their grains into a couple of sticky sacks (pollinia) instead.
– Epiphyte: A plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant. Lots of tropical orchids are epiphytes
– Lithophyte: A plant that grows on rocks

Species Featured in this video:
– Phantom Orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae)
– Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera)
– Fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera)
– Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum)
– Red Helleborine Orchid (Cephalanthera rubra)
– Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium)
– Hammer orchid (Drakaea glyptodon)
– Wasp (Zaspilothynnus trilobatus)
– Lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium calceolus)
– Dracula orchids (Dracula terborchii and Dracula andreettae)
– Spider orchids (Genus Caladenia)
– Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)
– Venus slipper (Paphiopedilum Maudiae)

Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: Peter Reich
Script Editor: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Illustrators: Omkar Bhagat (@TheCuriousEnggr) and Ever Salazar (@eversalazar)
Video Director: Emily Elert (@eelert)
Video Narrator: Emily Elert (@eelert)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Kate Yoshida, Rachel Becker and David Goldenberg

Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:

Image Credits:
Phantom Orchid – Miguel Vieira
Ophrys apifera – Hans Hillewaert
Ophrys insectifera – Bernd Haynold
Ophrys speculum – Wikimedia user Esculapio
Cephalanthera rubra and Campanula trachelium – Olivier Pichard
Hammer Orchid Animation based on Photos by Rod Peakall
Lady Slipper Orchid – Flickr user ladydragonflyherworld


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Merckx, V. and Freudenstein, J. V. (2010), Evolution of mycoheterotrophy in plants: a phylogenetic perspective. New Phytologist, 185: 605–609. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from

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