At Botanica Ltd., we endeavor to raise awareness of the ongoing loss of natural habitat around the world by offering seed grown species that originate from domestic culture. Ex-situ conservation and propagation are a way of protecting an endangered species by growing it in a safe location - away from it’s native environment. It can also help take pressure off the native populations by reducing collecting. Our passion and efforts are directed to the Angraecoid alliance, orchids primarily from Africa and Madagascar. See our offerings for more information.
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From the Artist:
When we started growing orchids, I possessed the wonderful habit of drawing and painting each one as it came into bloom. At that point, we had lots of time and not much money. We could afford only seedling plants and our collection was mostly foliage. I waited anxiously as plants grew and buds developed. Now, we don’t seem to have much time or money! We always have blooming plants, but I rarely set aside the time to draw or paint them anymore. I made an exception when it came to launching this site.

I have always been fascinated at the complexity with which orchids and their pollinators have evolved. It really stretches the imagination! My favorite plant/pollinator combination is that between Angraecum sesquipedale and the moth Xanthopan morgani praedicta. Of course it doesn’t hurt when the plant and pollinator were the subject of Charles Darwin as he was worked on his book “On the Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilised by Insects”.

I’ve read MANY different versions of the Darwin story, but I like the one put forth in Fred Hillerman’s book “An Introduction to the Cultivated Angraecoid Orchids of Madagascar”.

Darwin postulated that there must be a nocturnal hawkmoth in Madagascar with a proboscis of sufficient length to reach the nectar in the 12- to 13-inch spur. What happens, he said, is this. Alighting on the flower’s lip, which serves as a tailormade landing platform, the moth, with wings aflutter, inserts its springlike tongue through the cleft in the rostellum of the flower and down into the spur to partake of the nectar. After satisfying its thirst, the moth raises its head instinctively as it withdraws its tongue, and the viscid pads on the under side of the rostellum adhere to the insect’s head or body and cause the pollen masses to be withdrawn from the flower. On the moth’s head, or antennae, the elastic cord, or stipe, connecting the pads to the pollen masses dries, and in doing so, its angle to the moth’s tongue is changed in such a way as to ensure the entrapment of the pollen masses in the stigmatic cavity of the next flower visited.

Darwin experimented with a cylinder and a flower to show how this could indeed work with the right pollinator and said: “The pollinia would not be withdrawn until some huge moth, with a wonderfully long proboscis, tried to drain the last drop.” It was not until 1903, some 21 years after Darwin’s death that the moth Xanthopan morgani praedicta was found and named on Madagascar. Praedicta means “the predicted”. Darwin also predicted, “If such great moths were to become extinct in Madagascar, assuredly the Angraecum would become extinct.”

Let’s hope his last “prediction” does not come true.

-brenda, artist and orchid lover
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Contact us at
billn@bresnan.net
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This story (and much more) can be found in most any research on Cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is the study of still unknown species of animals - entirely new species and ones that are usually considered extinct.