Mayfly Mystery

One of the orchids currently flowering is Nemacianthus caudatus (syn Acianthus caudatus). The common name is Mayfly orchid. Robert Lawrence’s post in OrchidNotes gives an interesting background to the resemblance of the flower both to the Mayfly’s three tails and its mass swarming.


The Mayfly Orchid is a small orchid with very dark reddish brown flowers with long, hair-like sepals.  It flowers from late July to August.  One might question what sort of insect was behind the naming of this orchid, which does not even flower in May.  Mayflies are an insect with which many of us are not acquainted.

Nemacianthus caudatus Close view of a typical flowering Mayfly Orchid

One source attributed the naming or the orchid being similar to the long legs of a Mayfly.  However, a quick search in the Internet revealed that Mayflies have fairly short legs, as in the image below:

Mayflies have relatively short legs … Source:

It turns out that it is the appendages on the end of the abdomen that the sepals of the Mayfly Orchid resemble.  Mayflies usually have three tails (two cerci, one middle filament), although the middle tail is rarely reduced or absent. …

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