Nine Ways to Lure a Lover, Orchid-Style- page 7 | Science | Smithsonian
(James Osen)

Nine Ways to Lure a Lover, Orchid-Style

Beauty, mystery and deceit—the Smithsonian's collection of nearly 8,000 live orchids has it all

The Sweet Smell of Success

Masdevallia glandulosa
(James Osen)
Most orchids in the genus Masdevallia release fetid smells to attract fruit flies or fungus gnats. But Masdevallia glandulosa, found in Ecuador and Peru, releases a sweet aroma. Some have compared the smell to that of cloves. It wafts from little beads, or glands, that look, as Mirenda puts it, “like little purple hot air balloons.” He is not sure what pollinator the orchid attracts with its scent. “But it is a very interesting adaptation,” says Mirenda, “And it makes for a really dramatic photograph to see all those fragrance glands.”

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