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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

I Think I Impregnated My Phalaenopsis

Running a site called “Plantgasm” with the tagline “I love plants too much” invites a certain kind of joke. But rest assured, I’m not doing anything naughty to my plants. It’s all consensual, I promise.

Plants are, it turns out, pretty much all about sex. They spend their whole lives building up the perfect flower at the perfect time. Flowers are actually sex organs and orchids have especially kinky sex lives.

All orchid sex is a ménage à trois, involving two flowers and an unsuspecting insect. Each flower sings a siren song, using color and scent to seduce the bug inside. (In some places, orchids and insects co-evolved so that only one species can pollinate a specific orchid.) Some orchids even role-play, dressing up their flowers to look and smell like an especially slutty insect, drawing suitors to them in a sexual frenzy. (Just watch this video and try not to feel bad for the poor humpy bee.)

Orchid sex also involves toys. While the insect is in the flower, the orchid attaches a strap-on to the insect’s back. Yes, really. The strap-on (aka viscidium) is a bit of the flower that holds two pollen balls. The insect departs, unable to remove the package. When the insect with the straped-on pollen balls enters another flower, the viscidium deposits the pollen in the second flower. Kinky!

Since there aren’t a whole lot of winged insects in my house, I decided to try pollenating a flowering Phalaenopsis myself. After a bottle of wine and some light conversation, we went at it like animals. I used a toothpick to pop the viscidium off a flower. I could see the two orange pollen balls attached, but they’re almost invisibly tiny. I then turned it around and reapplied them to the same flower (some orchids can self-pollenate). To see how hot this actually is, check out this sexy video. NSFW!

Pregnant Phalaenopsis

That was a few weeks ago. After we all sobered up, we never spoke of it again. But lately, I’ve noticed a change in the flower. She was withering away. Usually when a flower dies, it just kind of goes droopy and then falls off. But this flower was drying out instead.

So I looked behind the bloom, and sure enough, a baby bump! Usually the flower stems are thin and lightly colored. This one is dark and getting fatter.

Pregnant Phalaenopsis

We all discussed it and decided to keep the baby (or, rather, the nearly 1 million seeds that can come from a single pod). Unlike other pregnancies, this one will only take about four months. It won’t involve a hospital, but it may involve a lab. When the seed pod is ready, we’ll ship it off to an orchid flasker. If we’re lucky, a year or two after that, we’ll have a bottle of babies. In addition to being all about sex, orchids are also all about patience.

So that’s the birds and bees of orchid love. I’m so glad we had this little talk.

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8 Responses

Holy hell, Derek. That’s terrific. I’ve been meaning to do that for years! Can’t wait to see how this comes out.

Posted by Eric Rodenbeck on 1 July 2011 @ 7pm

Sounds like it was good for you, too. ;) Love it. After your last deflasking, you’re going to be overrun! (A good thing, yes). I’m a new-ish reader so I’m not familiar with your indoor space…do you have enough space with decent light for the babies when they come back from the nursery?

Posted by Miss Minty on 1 July 2011 @ 7pm

Thanks, Eric! I’ve tried it a couple other times, but this is the first one to take.

Miss Minty: There’s no way I have enough space! If I can keep all my current baby orchids alive, at some point I’ll start giving them away or maybe selling them on eBay.

Posted by Derek on 1 July 2011 @ 7pm

I’m laughing so hard at this post … I actually just read it out loud to my husband over breakfast. Who knew orchids were so sleazy?! :-)

Posted by Jess on 2 July 2011 @ 5am

Good luck getting your bottle of babies!

Posted by Taylor H. on 2 July 2011 @ 11am

I never imagined you being a dendrophiliac. After the reading this post I’m having second thoughts. :D

Congratulations on your impending fatherhood! At least you did not have to do anything at all like the poor bee.

Posted by Bom on 2 July 2011 @ 7pm

The origin of the word orchid also points to their adult nature.

You didn’t mention that orchids don’t even bother looking after their children, just send them off to a foster fungus as soon as they are conceived. Not even a packed lunch. The parents jump back into bed as soon as they can.

Seriously though, do breeders bother to inbreed lines of orchids so they can produce true F1 hybrids?

Posted by Pat on 3 July 2011 @ 7am

Congratulations! This is hilarious. “Poor humpy bee”! Did you smoke a cigarette afterwards?

Posted by phyte club katie on 5 July 2011 @ 9am


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.