Spider Orchid Bloom
A Brassia orchid bloomed by the photographer, with one multibranched flower spike 31 inches tall supporting 11 individual blossoms. Brassia is a genus of orchids named after William Brass, a British botanist and illustrator who collected plants in Africa. These orchids are epiphytes (air plants) that grow in wet forests from sea level to altitudes under 5,000 feet (~1500m) in South Florida, the West-Indies and tropical America, especially the Peruvian Andes.
Brassia flowers are notable for the characteristic long sepals which can exceed 20 inches (~50 cm), giving them their common name of "spider orchid".
Brassia orchids utilize a very specialized form of entomophily (pollination by insects) to fertilize their flowers. They are only pollinated by the female spider-hunter wasps of the genera Pepsis and Campsomeris. The lip of the Brassia bloom is mistaken by these wasps for spiders and the wasps repeatedly sting the lip while trying to grasp their prey without success. During this struggle, the wasp comes into contact with the pollinarium, that then sticks to its head. When that wasp flies to another Brassia flower and repeats the attack, the pollinarium on its head pollinates the new flower.