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Flying Duck Orchid in Victoria

Tiny flower resembling a flying duck lures insects into its arms, captivates, and enslaves them

Best time: September–January

Flying Duck Orchid
Flying Duck Orchid
Flying Duck Orchid
Flying Duck Orchid
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In the southern parts of Australia, there is an unusual kind of orchid with tiny flowers, very similar to a flying duck in shape. Caleana major (known as flying duck orchid) is a small plant that grows in eucalyptus woodlands in coastal areas of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, and even Tasmania.

There are about 30,000 species of orchids in the world. They are all different and fool the pollinators in various ways, forcing them to work for themselves, and, as a rule, giving them nothing in return. Male sawflies that pollinate our tricky flying duck orchid view the flower as a female. Deceived insects fly right into the flower, where they are abundantly smeared in pollen.

The duck orchid is a perennial plant. It grows in the wild and blooms in spring to early summer, between September and January. As the plant is rather small and flowers are of a dark colour, it might require a certain level of concentration and attention to spot them in nature. But patient photographers will be rewarded with great pictures.

Another interesting fact is that in 1986, flying duck orchid appeared on Australian postage stamps.

Practical info

Where is the flying duck orchid found in Australia?

The flying duck orchid grows in eucalyptus woodlands in various parts of southern Australia, including Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania. Show more

When is the peak season to spot the flying duck orchid?

Between September and January (spring to early summer) is when the flying duck orchid is in bloom and can be spotted. Due to the plant's small, dark flowers, it can be quite challenging to take good pictures of it, requiring a certain level of focus and attention. Show more

How does the flying duck orchid lure in pollinators?

Male sawflies are attracted to the flying duck orchid, mistaking the flower for a female sawfly. When the male sawfly enters the orchid to mate, the plant daubs the insect with pollen. The orchid then releases a pollen-covered sawfly, which repeats the process of pollination with other flowers of the same species. Show more

What is the flying duck orchid's size?

The dark-colored flowering flying duck orchid is small compared to other orchid species. Finding and capturing it in photography requires some level of attention to detail due to its size, but its attractive petal pattern makes taking pictures worthwhile. Show more

What are some interesting facts about the flying duck orchid?

The flying duck orchid appeared on Australian postage stamps in 1986 as part of the vast 30,000-species orchid family. The orchid's unique pollination method attracts pollinators into its trap, after which it forcibly enslaves them to complete the pollination process without receiving anything in return. Show more

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