The couple next to us sharing a pizza at lunch kept glancing our way as Carol Siegel and I talked about sex. Nonstop. For more than an hour.
I was asking questions; Carol was explaining things in graphic detail while eating carrots and asparagus with her fingers. Perhaps we should have had this conversation in a more private place than Vintner’s Grill.
We talked about enablers and three-ways, romance and deceit, trust and sexual superstars. Of course, I took notes throughout.
Carol knew a lot more about this stuff than I did. She is 63, has lived in Las Vegas for 31 years and agreed to give me a preview of a slide show and speech she’ll be delivering at the UNLV Barrick Museum Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s a speech she’s given many times before, and it draws a lot of men. “Men come because of the word ‘sex’ and start snickering almost as soon as it starts,” she said.
Her topic: The Sex Life of Orchids.
“Orchids are the sexual superstars of the plant world,” Carol declared, waving her asparagus stalk. Orchids will stop at nothing to get pollinated, she said. They lie. They cheat. They promise and not deliver.
One liar is the Dracula vampira, which has a lip like a mushroom and a mushroom smell to attract the one thing any sex-starved orchid needs, a pollinator.
Whether it’s a bee, a fly, a mosquito, a moth, a butterfly or a hummingbird, the orchid needs to appeal to it for the pollen to travel from one plant to another. “Whatever the pollinator wants, the orchids try to give it,” Carol said.
One variety cheats by disguising itself as a female bee to attract male bees to the sweet spot, essentially becoming a hairy hottie. The bees fall for it every time.
Beauty, scent, color, movement (the orchid version of a swaying hip) are all used to lure the unsuspecting pollinator.
Her lecture, designed to amuse as well as inform, is heavy on the “wow factor,” Carol said. People leave saying they learned something they didn’t know before. Did you know there’s an orchid as big as a bull elephant?
One orchid that doesn’t deliver is the Disa draconis, which is pollinated by a fly whose tongue is five times as long as its body. It puts that tongue to good use by going for the orchid’s nectar, but this orchid, despite its smell of nectar, doesn’t actually have any. Tricked again.
The Dragon orchid is another tease, much like certain women in Las Vegas nightclubs. The lip of the orchid has a smell so powerful that a drop on a pinhead will prompt a wasp to copulate with it, Carol said. (The man at the next table seemed interested in that comment.)
“Orchids connect us to the divine and satisfy our need for nurturing,” Carol said. “They satisfy our need for intellectual stimulation.”
Carol, president of the Greater Las Vegas Orchid Society, squelched any notion that the fictional Nero Wolfe is the only man who enjoys growing orchids. She said about half of the 150 club members are men. If you’re looking for diversity, look no further than orchid lovers: The youngest club member is 4; the oldest is 86.
She joined the club to make friends after she retired from running her husband’s medical office. “They’re the nicest people in my life, they’re not petty,” Carol said. Orchid lovers have eclectic interests and intellectual curiosity, she said, and she seemed to be a good example of that.
Carol can be reached at 254-4168. Her e-mail is email@example.com.
Back to sex.
“The word ‘orchid’ in Latin and Greek means testicle,” Carol said. (The woman at the next table paused noticeably.) The first orchids found had twin underground tubers.
Carol’s a much-in-demand speaker, and UNLV sought her out to speak as part of its free lecture series, University Forum, suggesting at first she speak on orchids native to Nevada. Yes, they do exist.
Carol thought her most popular speaking topic might draw just a few more to the lecture. The redheaded grandmother knows that sex sells. Even orchid sex.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.JANE ANN MORRISONMORE COLUMNS