Grass pink orchid (Calopogon tuberosus)

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Grass pink orchid flower

Top facts

  • The attractive grass pink orchid has two accepted subspecies, known as Simpson’s pink orchid and tuberous grasspink.
  • The grass pink orchid has a rare albino form which has white flowers.
  • The grass pink orchid does not produce any nectar and instead relies on trickery to attract pollinators.
  • The grass pink orchid is common across eastern North America, and can also be found in Cuba and the Bahamas.
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Grass pink orchid fact file

Grass pink orchid description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderAsparagales
FamilyOrchidaceae
GenusCalopogon (1)

The grass pink orchid (Calopogon tuberosus) is an erect perennial forb (2) (4), whose attractive pale to dark pink flowers grow in clusters of between 5 to 20 although only a few bloom at the same time (2) (3). The slender leaves resemble blades of grass, and the flowers are symmetrical (5). The uppermost petal on the flowers of this species are covered with brushy hairs, which resemble the pollen-bearing anthers of other species. This mimicry attracts visiting insects despite the lack of nectar, allowing pollination to occur (5). The grass pink orchid has two known subspecies, Simpson’s grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus simpsonii) and tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus tuberosus) (6).

Also known as
common grasspink.
Synonyms
Bletia tuberose, Calopogon pulchellus, Cathea pulchella, Helleborine tuberosa, Limodorum tuberosum.
Size
Height: up to 70 cm (2)
Flower length: 2 - 3.5 cm (3)
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Grass pink orchid biology

The flowers of the grass pink orchid do not produce nectar. The physical appearance of this species’ flowers is attractive to pollinating insects as they are very similar to nectar-producing flowers (9). The main pollinators of this species are thought to be bumblebees, particularly the wandering bumblebee (Bombus vagrans) and the yellow bumblebee (Bumbus fervidus), and several species of flies (9). The lip of the flower is hinged at the base, and when an insect lands, the lip drops and the hairs brush pollinia onto the visitor. The pollinia is then deposited on the next grass pink orchid that is visited by the insect (9). Just one pollinator visit is sufficient for this species because the grass pink orchid, like many other orchids, produces a copious amount of tiny seeds (3).

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Grass pink orchid range

The grass pink orchid is very common across the eastern half of North America, from Newfoundland to Minnesota in the north, and from Florida to Texas in the south (6) (7) and is also found in Cuba and the Bahamas (4) (8).

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Grass pink orchid habitat

The grass pink orchid can be found in a wide array of wet habitats including bogs, meadows, ditches and fens (2) (4) (7). This species is generally inhabits areas with a very small amount of shade and a constant water supply (4).

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Grass pink orchid status

The grass pink orchid has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.

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Grass pink orchid threats

The main threat to the grass pink orchid is the degradation of suitable habitat due to drying. The prevention of minor fires within the habitat of the grass pink orchid can lead to succession by woody species, which are known to create too much shade for this species to persist. Overcollection may have also reduced certain populations of the grass pink orchid (4).

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Grass pink orchid conservation

The grass pink orchid is classified as endangered in Illinois, Kentucky and Maryland, exploitably vulnerable in New York, and as special concern in Rhode Island (6). The state classifications legally protect this plant from collection in certain areas of its range and harvesting of wild individuals is discouraged in Ohio (4). However, the plant is locally common over a large range, and occurs in protected areas (3).

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Find out more

Find out more about the grass pink orchid:

Find out more about plant conservation in North America:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Anther
Part of the stamen (the male reproductive organ of a flower) that produces pollen.
Fen
Wetland with alkaline, neutral or only slightly acidic peaty soil. The alkalinity arises due to ground water seeping through calcareous rocks (rocks containing calcium carbonate).
Forb
Any herbaceous (non-woody) flowering plant that is not a grass.
Lips
In plants, petal or petals that form a lobe.
Mimicry
A phenomenon in which a species gains an advantage by closely resembling another species in appearance or behaviour.
Perennial
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
Pollinators
Animals that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
Pollinia
A mass of pollen grains.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. Catalogue of Life (May, 2014)
    http://www.catalogueoflife.org/
  2. University of Wisconsin Herbarium - Calopogon tuberosus (May, 2014)
    http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=CALTUBvTUB
  3. Stewart, S.L. and Richards, L.W. (2008) Orchid flora of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. North American Native Orchid Journal, 14(2): 69-70.
  4. Ohio Department of Natural Resources - Calopogon tuberosus (May, 2014)
    http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/portals/dnap/pdf/Rare_Plant_Abstracts/calopogon_tuberosus.pdf
  5. United States Forest Service Plant of the Week - Tuberous Grasspink (May, 2014)
    http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/calopogon_tuberosus.shtml
  6. United States Department of Agriculture - Calopogon tuberosus (May, 2014)
    https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CATU5
  7. University of Florida Plant Restoration - Calopogon tuberosus (May, 2014)
    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-restoration/phil/calopogon-tuberosus.shtml
  8. Justice, W.S., Bell, R.C.. and Lindsey, A.H. (2005) Wild Flowers of North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  9. Firmage, D.H. and Russel Cole, F. (1988) Reproductive success and inflorescence size of Calopogon tuberosus (Orchidaceae). American Journal of Botany, 75(9): 1371-1377.
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Grass pink orchid flower  
Grass pink orchid flower

© Lynn M. Stone / naturepl.com

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