One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Each of a pair of lobes at the tip of the proboscis in some insects.
A central petal at the base of an orchid flower, typically larger than the other petals and of a different shape.
- ‘If insects smaller than the pollinator become trapped they may crawl out without pollination occurring or, if larger than the pollinator, they may stay trapped until the labellum opens again.’
- ‘The males then try to mate with the labellum or else lift it as they would a female wasp.’
- ‘In attempting unsuccessfully to couple with the labellum the male pushes its head forward below the overhanging column.’
- ‘The petals are lesser segments that typically envelop the column; the labellum is also generally small.’
- ‘These encounters can be quite violent and frequently result in the labellum being torn from the flower.’
Early 19th century: from Latin, diminutive of labrum ‘lip’.
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