Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ghosts of the Florida Swamps

This past weekend, a small band of explorers (my wife, two plant researchers, and myself) made a foray into the Fakahatchee Strand and nearby areas to see Ghost Orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii) in the wild and hopefully catch at least one in flower.  We were disappointed to find that the trees that hosted many ghost orchids in the past had been broken by storms or otherwise dead due to natural causes.  On some of the living trees, we also found dead orchids...cause of death: unknown.  All told, from an area where we had previously seen about 15 plants, only five remained. These two sloughs which held many ghosts in their heyday were a sad vestige of their former selves.  To add insult to injury, several ghost orchids were stolen from these areas in the past year.

Thankfully, in another nearby area, we found a healthy population of ghost orchids, after wading into water and thick mud beneath that sometimes had us submerged chest high and tugging our feet furiously out of the mud trying to arch our toes so as not to lose a shoe.  It was less than half a mile of walking, but one of the most grueling hikes I have ever done. Several plants were in bud, which seemed to be our consolation prize.  My thoughts raced to strategies for trying to come back the next week.  Just as we were deciding to head back, I thought to loop around one large buttressed pond apple tree at the very edge of the area...lo and behold, just as I rounded one of the several trunks, a beautiful near-white flower met my eyes with a bud opening up just above it.  The morning light shone around the tree, leaving the roots in shadow but the flower catching the sun's rays, enhancing the otherworldly look of this ephemeral flower.

We took video and photos of the plant, which I present here:

This was an especially meaningful trip for me, as during all my previous visits to the Fakahatchee Strand, my wife was at home tending to nursing babies.  I kept promising her that when they were grown enough, I would take her to see ghost orchids up close in the wild.  I was able to make good on that promise this past weekend.

I took many photos of this superlative orchid, which I will be adding to the profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids website.  You can view that full profile and find out more information about the ghost orchids by following the link below:

Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) profile link 

Monday, June 23, 2014

We Need Your Help

We need your help!

This has been an ambitious year for us at Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids, with many field trips already under our belt for the year and several that we would still like to take. 

Here is what we've done so far for this year:
  • Disney Wilderness Preserve to film Calopogon multiflorus in flower.
  • Florida panhandle to photograph terrestrial bog orchids. During this trip, we discovered the first known population of Calopogon multiflorus in Leon County and filmed a large Pogonia colony deep in the Apalachicola National Forest.
  • South-central Florida to film Calopogon tuberosus and Sacoila lanceolata in large colonies.
  • Everglades National Park to try to photograph Trichocentrum undulatum in flower - unfortunately, we missed finding these in bloom.
  • Eastern Orange County on multiple occasions to film Calopogon tuberosus in flower, Enc. tampensis in flower and Dendrophylax porrectus in its habitat. We found a rare alba form of Calopogon tuberosus on one of these trips.
Here are some field trips we hope to make:
  • Fakahatchee Strand to photograph and film ghost orchids within the week.
  • Withlacoochee State Forest, likely multiple times, to photograph rare Triphora orchids.
  • Eastern Orange County to film Dendrophylax in flower.
  • Everglades National Park in late summer/early fall to photograph and film Dollar Orchids in flower.
  • Fakahatchee Strand again in the Fall to photograph and film Campylocentrum pachyrhizum.
Each of these field trips costs money for gasoline, food, and water, as well as other expenses such as camera memory cards, insect repellent, and the like. In short, it's not cheap to bring all these beautiful wild orchids to you on our website, Facebook, our Youtube channel, and blog. 

NOTE: due to the rare nature of the orchids we will be photographing, these upcoming field trips will not be open to the public.

I need your help to make these plans a reality. A donation in any amount, even $5 for a gallon of gasoline and a gallon of water (it sure gets hot in some of these places), will help us with our costs. Considering how many fans we have for this page, if a reasonable percentage of you good folks gave even a small amount, we will be able to continue to venture into the wild for the rest of this year and bring you amazing photos and video of Florida's untamed orchids.

Here is the link to make a secure donation to our cause via PayPal using either an existing PayPal account or a debit/credit card.

If you want to donate a larger amount, say $330, we have a number of lovely photo canvases that we can send you to show our gratitude. Please e-mail me at for availability.

If you are not able to donate, please consider sharing this page and this link with friends who you know might be interested - people who enjoy nature, hiking, the outdoors, wildflowers, gardening, and orchids all have found enjoyment in our pages. Through your generous help, we can expand the information and imagery we have to offer on this and our other web sites.

Thank you, in advance, for any help you, our faithful readers, can provide.

---Prem Subrahmanyam and the Florida Native Orchids crew.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hosted Florida Native Orchid and Wildflower Walk - June 7, 2014

We had a great time on June 7 at Fort Christmas Historical Park and nearby Orlando Wetlands Park.  We saw many species of wildflowers and other plants on our leisurely walk through both these parks.  Five species of orchids were found, including three in flower, and one in fruit.

Here are the orchids we saw in flower:

The Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis)

The Grass Pink Orchid (Calopogon tuberosus)

Scarlet Ladies Tresses (Sacoila lanceolata).

Two other orchid species that we saw out of flower were the Greenfly Orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae) and the Jingle Bell/Needleroot Orchid (Dendrophylax porrectus).

I hope others can join us next year, as I hope to make this an annual event.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sharing My Photography Techniques in a New Course

Over the years, many have asked how I take my photographs, from equipment I use to techniques I use for taking the photos and processing them.  I have recently partnered with the website Orchids Made Easy at to create an on-line photography master course sharing many of my techniques and tips.  While no one class can be a substitute for hard work and practice, the methods I share can help you hone your skills in the right direction.

In this course, I cover techniques for photographing cultivated orchids in the studio and wild orchids in situ, from lighting to composing the shot to editing the digital photos in a digital editing application (I cover both Photoshop and GIMP).  There are many instructional videos used throughout the course, along with detailed, illustrated examples.  Here is the course outline:

   1: About the Author
   2: Purpose
Lesson 1: Equipment Overview
   1: Introduction
   2: Camera
   3: Lens
   4: Tripod or Camera Stabilization
Lesson 2: Sources of Light
   1: Natural Light
   2: Flash
   3: Constant Light Source
Lesson 3: Photography 101 - Lighting
   1: Three-point Lighting
   2: Key Light
   3: Fill Light
   4: Back Light
   5: Soft vs. Hard Light
Lesson 4: ISO & Exposure
   1: Adjusting Parameters
Lesson 5: Aperture
   1: Aperture Overview: From A-Z
Lesson 6:Composing the Shot
   1: Subject
   2: Backdrop
Lesson 7: Taking the Photos
   1: Getting Started
   2: Bracketing the Exposure
   3: Varying the Lighting Angle
   4: Varying the Camera Position
   5: Focus on the Flowers
   6: Putting it All Together
Lesson 8: Making Your Photos Sing
   1: Why It Matters
   2: Take Your Best Shot
   3: Editing Software Tools
   4: Adjusting Sharpness & Brightness
   5: Adjusting Color
   6: Removing Blemishes
   7: How To Video Lessons
   8: Before & After Comparisons
Lesson 9: Publishing and Printing Photos
   1: Sharing
   2: Printing
Addendum: Shooting Plants in Situ
   1: Finding Wild Orchids
   2: Best Environmental Conditions
   3: Composition
   4: Video Lesson
   1: Parting Thoughts

Through this partnership, Orchids Made Easy is offering my Photography Master Course for $47 US with a money back guarantee if you're not satisfied.  You can sign up for this course at the following link:

Photography Course Sign-up Link

Proceeds from this course go to help fund the Florida Native Orchids website, field trips, photography equipment and the like.  As always, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Newly Discovered Population of Calopogon multiflorus

Breaking news! 05/07/14

A New County Was Added to the List of Known Florida Counties for the Rare Florida Native Orchid, Calopogon multiflorus.

Prem Subrahmanyam, curator of the Florida Native Orchid website, Facebook page, and blog, was exploring an area of the Apalachicola National Forest on Sunday, May 4, 2014 near Tallahassee, Florida (Leon County). In a recently prescribed burned area, he found a small population (8 individual plants) of the rare orchid species, Calopogon multiflorus, commonly known as the Many-flowered Grass Pink. This species was recently upgraded from endangered to threatened with the latest guidance released by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Appropriate officials have been contacted to let them know about this newly discovered population.  The previously closest known population to this location was 30 miles away in Liberty County, Florida.

The gallery page for this species on the Florida Native Orchid page has been updated with a new photograph taken of a member of this population, along with an updated map. Those can be viewed at the following link:

This brings to four the number of species that Prem Subrahmanyam has been the first to discover growing in Leon County, Florida. Previous first discoveries were Platanthera flava, Platanthera ciliaris, and Zeuxine strateumatica.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Fitting 100th Blog Post - Platanthera ciliaris in bloom.

I had the privilege of revisiting a site where one of Florida's most beautiful orchids grows - The Yellow Fringed/Orange Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris).  These are some of the nicest photos I've gotten of one of these on a partly cloudy morning in Central Florida.

You can read more about this species by following this link:

The newest photos are at the bottom of the page, but I will post them here as well.  Click on the images to zoom in on them.



Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Rarely Seen Florida Beauty - the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Years ago, when Carl Luer published his masterwork, The Native Orchids of Florida, the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) had been hinted at as growing in Florida, but had not been officially recorded.  It was listed in a section in his book of orchids that might one day be found growing wild in Florida.

Fast forward to 1983 where a pair of naturalists discovered a population on one of the many hills near the Apalachicola River.  As is seen elsewhere in north Florida, riverine systems are a means of many northern species making tentative forays into north Florida.  The climate is often just a bit cooler, giving plants a place to establish tenuous outlying colonies.

I have not yet had the privilege of seeing the Florida population, but I had encountered a population of these orchids while photographing Pink Ladyslippers near the Atlanta, Georgia area.  I hope one day to see the Floridian plants, if the colony still exists.  A lot can happen in 30 years.

The plants consist of a basal rosette of beautifully patterned leaves -- deep blue-green with silvery veins.  The hairy flower stem emerges in spring to bloom in mid-late summer with small, roundish flowers with green-striped sepals and deeply pouched lips.

Here are some photos of this species:

And here is the profile page on the Florida Native Orchids site: 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Snowfall in the Deep South, in Summertime!!

In general, the Snowy Orchid (Platanthera nivea) is a rarely seen summer-blooming orchid, earning a spot on the threatened plant list in Florida.  It is one of the few terrestrial bog/wetland orchids that bridges the gap between the spring bloomers and the late summer/fall bloomers.

Occasionally, however, it can become locally abundant, and when it does so, it can create spectacular displays in wet meadows and on wet roadsides.  I have seen two areas, one in the Florida panhandle and one in southeastern Georgia where this occurs, and the display is breathtaking!

Here is an individual flower head:

And here is a video taken in the same general area as the first picture in this post:

The flowers are nicely fragrant of citrus blossoms and hold small amounts of nectar in the tips of their spurs to reward their pollinators (likely small butterflies).

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