The Species Orchid Society of Western Australia (Inc)

Ron Heberle's Drakaea


(Hammer Orchids)

Named after Miss Drake, a botanical artist who drew orchids and other plants to assist taxonomists in England in the 1800's.

This species bears an insectival labellum that is attached to a stem, which holds it aloft. This has an elastic hinge that can only be moved backwards where the broadly winged column carries the pollina and stigma.

The elaborate labellum structure is not sensitive and needs considerable force to be moved. This force is applied be fast flying male wasps deceived by the resemblance to the flightless females and the orchids pheromones, which are similar to that which the female gives off when they are ready to mate.
The male grasps what he believes to be a receptive female, overcomes the resistance of the elastic hinge and is catapulted backwards so that the back of his head is forced against the column. If he is carrying pollen, it is transferred to the stigma, or, alternatively, he receives a daub of pollen attached to his head for transfer to the next orchid he visits. A truly remarkable mechanism that is highly successful in fertilising the orchid and perpetuating the species.

There are four named species, (Drakaea elastica, Drakaea glyptodon, Drakaea livida and Drakaea thynniphila.), five in manuscript awaiting validation under the 'code', and three hybrids.

The species is presumed to have a one to one pollinating strategy where one insect type (wasp) pollinates one species and no other. However the presence of hybrids suggests otherwise.

Ron Heberle. April 2003