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Angraecum sesquipedale (Christmas star orchid)

When Charles Darwin was sent a specimen of the Madagascan Christmas star orchid in 1862, he predicted that since the nectar was at the bottom of the long flower spur, a pollinator must exist with a tongue as long as the spur - 41 years later, such a moth was discovered.
Flower of Christmas star orchid

Angraecum sesquipedale (Christmas star orchid)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Angraecum sesquipedale Thouars

Common name: 

Christmas star orchid, Darwin’s orchid, comet orchid

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria. Listed in Appendix II of CITES.

Habitat: 

Epiphytic on trees or, less commonly, on rocks in coastal forest.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Asparagales
Family: 
Orchidaceae
Genus: Angraecum

About this species

Orchidaceae is the largest family of flowering plants. There are around 220 species in the genus Angraecum, with new species being discovered recently in Madagascan forests. The genus name, Angraecum, is derived from the Malayan word anggrek, which is used to describe several species of epiphytic orchids. The specific epithet sesquipedale comes from the Latin sesquipedalis, meaning ‘one and a half feet’, in reference to the long flower spur.

The species was discovered by the aristocrat and keen botanist Louis Marie Aubert du Petit Thouars (1758-1831) in eastern Madagascar, where he had been exiled during the French Revolution. He returned to France in 1802 with a large collection of plants, most of which he donated to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

Synonym: 

Aeranthes sesquipedalis (Thouars) Lindl., Macroplectrum sesquipedale (Thouars) Pfitzer, Angorchis sesquipedalis (Thouars) Kuntze, Mystacidium sesquipedale (Thouars) Rolfe

Genus: 
Angraecum

main info

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