But the column does not finish here. It trends downward, behind and below the pads, and widens out, with an exquisitely graceful curve, into a disc one-quarter of an inch broad. This is the female, the receptive part; but here we see the peculiarity of orchid structure. For the upper surface of the disc is not susceptible; it is the under surface which must be impregnated, though the imagination cannot conceive a mere accident which would throw those fertilizing pads upon their destined receptacle. They are loosely attached and adhesive, when separated, to a degree actually astonishing, as is the disc itself; but if it were possible to displace them by shaking, they could never fall where they ought. Some outside impulse is needed to bring the parts together. In their native home insects perform that service—sometimes. Here we may take the first implement at hand, a knife, a bit of stick, a pencil. We remove the pads, which yield at a touch, and cling to the object. We lay them one by one on the receptive disc, where they seem to melt into the surface—and the trick is done. Write out your label—"Cyp. Sanderianum x Cyp. Godefroyae, Maynard.” Add the date, and leave Nature to her work.
She does not linger. One may almost say that the disc begins to swell instantly. That part which we term the column is the termination of the seed-purse, the ovary, which occupies an inch, or two, or three, of the stalk, behind the flower. In a very few days its thickening becomes perceptible. The unimpregnated bloom falls off at its appointed date, as everybody knows; but if fertilized it remains entire, saving the labellum, until the seed is ripe, perhaps half a year afterwards—but withered, of course. Very singular and quite inexplicable are the developments that arise in different genera, or even species, after fertilization. In the Warscewiczellas, for example, not the seed-purse only, but the whole column swells. Phaloenopsis Luddemanniana is specially remarkable. Its exquisite bars and mottlings of rose, brown, and purple begin to take a greenish hue forthwith. A few days later, the lip jerks itself off with a sudden movement, as observers declare. Then the sepals and petals remaining take flesh, thicken and thicken, while the hues fade and the green encroaches, until, presently, they assume the likeness of a flower, abnormal in shape but perfect, of dense green wax.
This Cypripedium of ours will ripen its seed in about twelve months, more or less. Then the capsule, two inches long and two-thirds of an inch diameter, will burst. Mr. Maynard will cut it off, open it wide, and scatter the thousands of seeds therein, perhaps 150,000, over pots in which orchids are growing. After experiments innumerable, this has been found the best course. The particles, no bigger than a grain of dust, begin to swell at once, reach the size of a mustard-seed, and in five or six weeks—or as many months—they put out a tiny leaf, then a tiny root, presently another leaf, and in four or five years we may look for the hybridized flower. Long before, naturally, they have been established in their own pots.