This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V25", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
This plant though not as grotesque as some of the orchids, is not one that will lack admirers. The lover of flowers is charmed by its beautiful appearance, both the single specimen and the general effect in the meadow, while the botanist finds it a subject for no little study.
Probably its nearest relatives are Pogonia ophiog-glossoides and Arethusa bulbosa. It differs in the spiral development of the flower, which brings the lip - the lowest division in its relatives and most other orchids - in our plant to be the upper lobe. When carefully examined the lip will be found a subject of no little interest. It has near its base a kind of hinge upon which it turns so as to cover the top of the column. In freshly expanded flowers the lip is found quite firmly erect and if bent down with the finger will spring back. But see what it has done, here are the pollinia attached to it. Let us take another flower and watch the operation. Notice how it draws them from their cells and across the stigma. Now take an older flower and we find the lip has dropped spontaneously. From such an operation we would suppose it had something to do with self-fertilization. Last season I tried the experiment of covering a few spikes of buds with gauze nets to see if they would be fertilized. After flowering every pod began to grow and for a time looked as if they would ripen seed. Then all but one began to wither and fall; this one grew and matured.
Is it not possible that the lip in this and other orchids was for this purpose originally? We see in the two other genera mentioned as related, the same "beautiful beard" which so nicely draws out the pollinia. These may have once had the same relative position as the Calopogon, but as they are now they could not fertilize themselves this way, the lip being at the lower part.
But this is not a question that can be decided without further experiment. Next year I intend to experiment more carefully and fully on the subject.