• angraecoid orchids;
  • bird pollination;
  • hawkmoth pollination;
  • long spur;
  • Madagascar;
  • Mascarene Islands;
  • Orchidaceae

In this year celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Darwin and the sesquicentennial of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the present paper aims to assess the impact of Darwin's legacy on the history of orchid pollination biology. To illustrate the major contribution of Darwin to this fascinating biological field, we focus on the large angraecoid orchid group and propose an overview of the complex relationships that these orchids have developed with specific pollinators. We further discuss how Darwin's seminal work on the angraecoid orchid Angraecum sesquipedale triggered the beginning of a long debate about the evolution of long floral spurs and why his idea of reciprocal evolution or ‘coevolution’ was one of the great contributions to evolutionary biology. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 161, 1–19.