Angraecum, The White Orchid of Madagascar

Angraecum, The White Orchid of Madagascar

Fast Facts Angraecum Orchids

Botanical name: Angraecum orchdids (pronounced as an-GRAY-cum)
Abbreviation: A. 
Also known as: White orchids of Madagascar, comet orchids
Family: Orchidaceae
Tribe: Vandeae
Subtribe: Angraecinae
Origin: Tropical Africa and Sri Lanka
Number of recognized species:  223 species, 4 subspecies, and 7 varieties 
Type species: Angraecum eburneum Bory 1804
Blooming season: Varies depending on origin

About Angraecum Orchids

The Angraecum orchid genus was officially founded in year 1804 through some joint effort of Colonel Bory de St. Vincent and Louis-Marie Aubert Du Petit-Thouars, a French botanist. It is one of the first orchids discovered from tropical Africa.

When it comes to the etymology of the genus name, it was derived from the Malay word “angurek” translated into Latin, which somehow talks about its Vanda-like growing behavior.

According to Jay’s Internet Orchid Species, this African native orchid has more than 200 unique species scattered around Africa and nearby islands, such as The Comoros Islands, The Seychelles, The Mascarenes and Madagascar.

Plant Description

Angraecum orchids can be monopodial and epiphytic.

Species range from miniature orchid varieties to large ones that reach up to three (3) feet in height. They usually have bigger, showy flowers, which appear in late fall to winter months, around Christmas time. The largest Angraecum orchid species are Angraecum sesquipidale and Angraecum eburneum.

They bloom with long-spurred  star-shaped flowers that can come in white, which is the most common, yellow, or green. One of the  winning factors of Angraecum orchids is that their flowers are generally long lasting and smells fantastic.

Angraecum, Darwin’s Orchids

An interesting story that involves this charming orchid plant is that famed naturalist and biologist, Charles Darwin -- yes, the same guy who spouted the Theory of Evolution -- was enamored by the beauty of Angraecum sesquipidale orchids and intrigued t how it was pollinated in nature.

Darwin suggested that the sweet scent of the Angraecum orchids effectively attracts and calls out to a pollinating insect that flies at night. He narrowed down his search to an insect that had a long tongue enough to reach the nectar safely tucked inside the orchid’s 12-inch flower tail or spur.  Darwin’s hunch, at the time, was that it was a big moth. However, no insect of such kind has been identified during those times back in 1862.

It was only 50 years later when Angraecum orchid’s moth pollinator was finally discovered and  Darwin’s theory was confirmed.


Leave a comment