Not long ago, we received a phone call from a movie producer who wanted to make a film at our orchid farm about Vampires. The scenes would take place primarily in the house that resides on the property. One of the main characters has an interest in orchids….very “creepy” orchids.
The long standing reputation that orchids enjoy is one of glamour and sophistication. Elegant blossoms with alluring fragrances. Lovely sprays of richly-colored flowers. Century-old plants bred for European Royalty. But “creepy”?
There are some lesser known orchid genera that could qualify as scary or even gruesome. There is one type called “Dracula” but the plant and flowers are too small to be noticed. The movie producer initially wanted the blossoms to be “blood-red” so as to please the blood-thirsty villains, but the most frightening blooms that we could find have more to do with shape and behavior than color.
Catasetum – While most orchid flowers contain both male and female parts (for self-pollination), Catasetums are gender specific. Some plants are distinctly male and some female depending on the conditions in which they are grown. In addition, the male flowers act like a catapult and eject their pollinia a foot or more in the air when touched by an insect or a plant breeder.
Many species of Catasetums are known to not only host ant colonies but to actually attract them. This symbiotic relationship works because this epiphyte craves the Nitrogen that ants leave behind while ants thrive in the roots. It is also quite normal for Catasetum foliage to turn yellow and fall off during the year. In summary, this type of orchid loses all its leaves, has ants living in it, and shoots pollen at you. Now that’s scary!
Stanhopea – This genus is known for dramatic ghastly flowers that hang down from the bottom of the plant. The orchid must be grown in a basket since the flower spikes protrude through the base and sides of the container. The flowers are short-lived, usually lasting 3 days or less, so pollinators must work quickly. The fragrance is strong and attracts male bees which slide down the intricate lip catching the pollen.
Stanhopeas grow quickly and are often found as specimen plants measuring up to 24” across. As soon as one group of blossoms fades, another spike appears and this process can continue for months.
The orchids that make the final “movie cut” will ultimately be decided by their blooming times rather than their ability to instill fright. When the cast and crew arrive, we can only hope that the orchid selections are macabre enough for Count Dracula and his co-stars. Lights, Camera, Action!