Fascinating Orchid That Has an Uncanny Resemblance to a Flying Duck

Fascinating Orchid That Has an Uncanny Resemblance to a Flying Duck
Daksha Devnani

One of nature’s greatest impressionists, the flying duck orchid is a bizarrely beautiful plant that boasts an impressive flower, resembling a duck in flight. Native to the Australian wilderness, these duck-like blooms have drawn a lot of attention.

(Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock)
(Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock)

These one-of-a-kind orchids that seem straight out of a fairytale produce purple, deep-red, and green blooms that appear between September and February. Scientifically known as the Caleana major, these plants are found in open forests and woodlands of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales.

Alluding to the plant, which grows to a height of 20 inches, with blooms measuring only ½ to ¾ inches in length, Karen Groeneveld, who has been monitoring a small colony of the plants in New South Wales, told ABC News, “It just looks like a duck, it sits there flying above the foliage. It’s the most iconic thing.”
(L: <a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/duck-drake-water-bird-mallard-bird-3970296/">Capri23auto</a>/Pixabay, R: Anne Powell/Shutterstock)
(L: Capri23auto/Pixabay, R: Anne Powell/Shutterstock)
It is believed that this single-species orchid genus was first described by botanist Robert Brown in 1810. The description was published in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen. The genus is named in honor of George Caley, an English botanist and explorer.
However, there is much more to this plant apart from its mesmerizing looks. The flying duck orchid has evolved to attract male sawflies, according to Gardening Know How. To the unsuspecting sawflies, these flowers look like a female sawfly. Once these insects approach the “beak” of the flower, they are trapped into a system that forces them to pass through the place where the pollen is located before escaping.
(Anne Powell/Shutterstock)
(Anne Powell/Shutterstock)

Although the sawfly doesn’t really intend to play the role of a pollinator, it collects some of the pollen and spreads it elsewhere, unintentionally helping the plant to survive.

Unfortunately, it’s quite uncommon to spot the flying duck orchid, and it has been listed in Australia’s vulnerable plant list due to “habitat destruction” and diminishing numbers of critical pollinators.

Additionally, for those who love gardening and have been curious to know if they can grow the flying duck orchid in their backyard, Gardening Know How notes that these plants are not available in the market.

Many people who have attempted to grow them in certain parts outside of the Australian continent haven’t been successful, and the plants don’t tend to survive. The growth of the flying duck orchid depends mainly on a fungus that is found only in its natural habitat, which is basically the eucalyptus woodlands of southern and eastern Australia. Researchers believe that the fungus helps the orchid ward off any possible infections and keeps the plant healthy.

(<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duck_off_Elvina.JPG">Poyt448 Peter Woodard</a>)
(Poyt448 Peter Woodard)
While it seems hard to grow these plants and visiting its native habitat to spot these beautiful flowers might seem rather tedious, there is one way to own an illustration of these unique plants as a souvenir forever—a stamp. In 1986, the Australian government began releasing stamps featuring the flying duck orchid.
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