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Darwin Orchid (Comet Orchid, Star of Bethlehem)

The Darwin orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) is native to Madagascar. It lives off other plants at sea level and up to 1,000 metres above sea level. The flower is about 20 cm across with a 30–35 cm long spur that produces and stores nectar.

This orchid was first collected in 1822 and became famous after Charles Darwin predicted that its pollinator must be a butterfly with a proboscis long enough to reach the bottom of the spur. Many years later, after Darwin's death, a moth was discovered with a 26 cm long proboscis. Unknown to science until then, it was named Xanthopan morganii subsp. praedicta. Praedicta is Latin for "predicted".

In the tropical darkness, the moth stops in front of the flower and unrolls it long proboscis from underneath its "chin", sticking it into the spur's opening in the middle of the flower. It then sucks nectar from the depths of the spur while pollinating the orchid.

Updated: 2019-08-14 07:43