When orchids smell like mushrooms – a tale of botanical deceit

Our Changing World, broadcast on Radio NZ today (Nov 29), looked at native spider orchids, a flower that doesn’t produce any pollen so is thought to imitate the scent of a fungus to attract fungus gnats as pollinators.

Read more about Carlos Lehnebach, a researcher from Te Papa, who is investigating these tiny orchids, see photos and listen to the broadcast by using this link. (Carlos was guest speaker at our March 2016 meeting.)

Carlos received funding from a Marsden Fast-Start grant to investigate the question ‘Does every spider orchid in New Zealand have its fungus gnat’, and the answer so far seems to be a resounding yes.

While most New Zealand plants have very general relationships with insects, Carlos says his results are exciting, as they are a rare New Zealand example of a specialised pollinator-flower relationship.

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