And the way it traps pollinators is downright clever.

By Erika Owen
August 29, 2018
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duck orchids

There's something magical about the doppelgangers you find naturally growing off of bushes and in swamps around the world. The flying duck orchid is no exception. Scientifically known as Caleana major, you can find this flower in Australia. When it blooms-which happens between September and February-it produces petals that come together to look similar to a duck in flight.

But there's a lot more to this orchid than its adorable looks. Much like the bee orchid, the flying duck orchid has a special little system for attracting pollinators, specifically sawflies. To the flies, the orchid looks like a female sawfly, which is all part of the entrapment. Once a fly lands on the flower's "beak," it's forced through the part of the plant where pollen is stored before escaping. This ensures that the sawfly gathers some of that pollen and takes off to spread it elsewhere. Sneaky!

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duck orchids

The flying duck orchid is on Australia's vulnerable plant list, but not for the reasons you'd expect. A decrease in pollinators and diminishing habitat certainly makes it hard for these plants to survive, but what's even more rare are their root systems. The growth of this orchid depends on a certain type of fungus, one that's only found in the plant's native Australian environment, which needs to be present for the plant to thrive. Researchers believe that its this fungus that helps the orchid fight off infections and other potential factors of decay.

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While you can't grow these plants on your own and it's going to cost you a plane ticket to see them in their natural environment, there is one way they'll live forever: on a stamp. Starting back in September 1986, the Australian government began releasing stamps featuring an illustration of the flying duck orchid as part of a four-stamp series depicting local plantws. If you're lucky, you might be able to find one floating around the Internet.

Feeling inspired? Watch how to turn wildflowers into a gorgeous wreath:

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