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Angraecum Bory 1804

Type Species: Angraecum eburneum Bory 1804



Pronounced: an-GRY-kum

Temperature: W.I.C.

Country: Africa, Madagascar

Angraecum contains around 221 species and some of the most magnificent of all orchids.

They are quite varied vegetatively and florally and are adapted to dry tropical woodland habitat and have quite fleshy leaves as a consequence. Most are epiphytes, but a few are lithophytes.

Tropical Africa and Madagascar contain the majority of the genus but these orchids can also be found on the Comores, the Seychelles, and the Mascarenes. They occur between sea level
and 2,000 m in humid regions.

The generally produce long-lasting flowers which grow from the leaf axils. They are mostly white, but a few are yellow, green or ochre. They all have a long spur at the back of the labellum (lip).

In the case of Angraecum sesquipedale, a species from Madagascar, on observing the 30cm spur in the lip, Charles Darwin theorised that, since the nectar was at the bottom of the spur, a pollinator must exist with a tongue at least that long. Otherwise the orchid could never be pollinated. At the time, he was not believed. However, long after Darwin's death, the predicted pollinator was discovered, a hawk moth now named Xanthopan morganii praedicta (praedicta meaning predicted).
It had an appropriately long proboscis. The specific name 'sesquipedale' means 'one foot and a half', referring to the length of the spur. This is a perfect example of mutual dependence of an orchid and a specific pollinator.