Monday, May 25, 2015

Report from the Field: The Green Scarlet Ladies' Tresses

I was first introduced to Scarlet Ladies' Tresses (Sacoila lanceolata) through Carl Luer's epic work, The Native Orchids of Florida, when I was a teenager.  This species was known then as Spiranthes lanceolata with three variants - var. lanceolata (typical variety), var. paludicola (Fakahatchee variety), and var. luteoalba (the green, albino, variety).  I had wanted to see these in person for many years, but never managed to be in the central Florida area, where they grow most abundantly, during flowering.

As an adult, I became acquainted with an individual who had a number of cultivated plants of this species in his greenhouse and he sent me a plant, which flowered a few years later, finally acquainting me personally with these beautiful flowers.

Fast-forward to a few years later when we made a visit to the Redland Orchid Festival.  On the drive down, we spotted colonies of this plant growing along the Florida Turnpike--my first introduction to wild plants of this species.  Even driving along at full speed, these plants were obvious enough to allow us to slow down and stop safely to observe them.

I was introduced to the Fakahatchee variety on a trip to the Corkscrew Swamp in March.  Sadly, they were almost bloomed out, so they were not worth photographing.

This left var. luteoalba, the green form, now demoted to a form of the typical variety as S. lanceolata var. lanceolata fma. albidaviridis, as the only variety I had not seen. Searching for this plant, I visited many large colonies of the typical variety, hoping to find a few stray green plants, to no avail.  Sometimes the green form would turn up in image sets of other Florida nature photographers, but their locations were kept a closely guarded secret.

Finally, this year, one of my Facebook friends, Jake Antonio Heaton, posted some pictures of the green variety and was willing to divulge the secret location of these plants.

I drove down to the location the next morning.

Interestingly enough, their location was not in some secretive meadow, but right along a quite busy highway, clustered in with red forms of the species.  While the red form is shockingly conspicuous, the green form is just the opposite, blending in quite well with the surrounding grasses.  True to Luer's description of this form, the plants all seemed to be in full bloom, while most of the red form plants nearby were still a week away from flowering. Further down the road, however, I did encounter large blooming clusters of the red form.

Here is a typical mixed colony of plants, red and green forms.  Note how the green forms are almost invisible:

Here is a pair of flowering plants blooming closely together:

Here is single plant in flower:

Here is the same plant isolated with a black backdrop:

Here is a very tall plant, with roughly twice the flower count of a typical plant of the species:

All told, I saw 19 green form plants and about as many red form plants at this colony.

Driving east from this location, I found many large colonies of the typical form of the species, but there were no green form plants among these colonies.  I eventually had to turn around and head back westward to drive home.  Just about a mile to the east of the initial colony of green plants, I found another cluster of green plants along with a few red ones.  Scanning the other side of the road, I found many flower spikes of the standard form still in high bud.

So, finally, after many years of searching, I have managed to see and photograph the green form of this species in the wild.  Many thanks to Jake Antonio Heaton for sharing this location with me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Upcoming Florida Wild Orchid / Wildflower Walk!

I will be hosting a wild orchid / wildflower walk in the east Orlando area (Ft. Christmas Park and Orlando Wetlands Park) on Saturday, June 6th  Cost is $10 a person with a maximum family cap of $30 (I have a large family, so I appreciate how expensive it can be to do family events).  You can read more about this on the Facebook event page that I have set up for it:

Facebook Event Page: Florida Native Orchid / Wildflower Walk

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sometimes Lightning Strikes Twice (or, In This Case, Three Times)

Just a few weeks after finding the previous white Grass Pink, I revisited the location of a previously known white-flowered plant, to find a perfect threesome of pure-white flowers! Well, pure white except for the orange-yellow color in the hair bristles.

I was particularly happy that the positioning of the flowers allowed the focal plane to neatly bisect all three bristles of hairs, allowing each to be in sharp focus. A pretty rare shot, indeed!

For a refresher on how Grass Pinks are pollinated, which is quite fascinating in its own right, watch the video below:


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

White Grass Pink! or Calopogon tuberosus fma. albus.

For the fourth time, recently, in my 30+ years of observing Florida native orchids in the wild, I have come across the albus (white) form of the Grass Pink Orchid (Calopogon tuberosus). Photos taken with natural light and an off-shoe camera flash unit. Enjoy this rare sight that few naturalists have ever seen.

First, the flower, taken with natural light (very late afternoon).

Next, taken with an off-shoe flash, allowing a faster shutter speed and a lower aperture for more depth of field.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Scarlet Ladies' Tresses Orchids Blooming in Central Florida

I have posted a new video to the Florida Native Orchids Youtube channel showing the lovely Scarlet Ladies' Tresses Orchids (Sacoila lanceolata) in flower in a sunny meadow.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Recent Speaking Engagement - Long Island Orchid Society, NY

Many thanks go to the Long Island Orchid Society for hosting me on Thursday, April 9th.  Here is a link to their website:

This was an historic occasion, as it was my first Florida native orchid themed presentation given outside of the state of Florida.  Previously, I have lectured many dozens of times at orchid societies, native plant societies, garden clubs, and symposiums, discussing our rare and unique orchid heritage.  Afterward, members of the society stated:

Thank you Prem. It was our pleasure to host you and I think you finally brought some warm weather to NY. You gave our group a very informative well organized talk packed with information and the hour just flew by. 

Highly recommended speaker!"

Florida is home to many rare and beautiful orchids, as well as some that are not as rare (but just as beautiful and interesting).  While the semi-tropical central and southern regions of the state boast the greatest orchid diversity in the entire US (with many of these species found nowhere else in the continental US), Florida also has species that range well outside the state.

This presentation was a combination of the best and most interesting orchids from two of my talks, representing both orchids shared across our borders with the rest of the US and orchids found only within Florida, including such luminaries as the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii).

It is a combination of scientific information, beautiful photographs, and anecdotes from many hundreds of hours in the field hunting, observing, and photographing our orchid wonders.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Previous Appearance - Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival, DeLand, FL

I spoke recently on Florida's native orchids at the Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival on West Indiana Avenue in historic downtown DeLand, Florida.  Thank you to everyone who dropped by our booth and attended the talk, showing your support for our efforts in educating the public about Florida's native orchids.

My talk was at 2PM in the Athens Theatre in the heart of the festival.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our YouTube Channel is Open for Your Viewing Pleasure

While I primarily shoot still photographs while out in the field, I have been dabbling with shooting short videos of various species of orchids and their habitats and cobbling them together into something that is hopefully interesting and entertaining.  These are all assembled into our YouTube channel, which you can visit by clicking the link below:

Click to Visit Our YouTube Channel
Click to Visit Our YouTube Channel
 I have also created a widget in the top right corner of this blog linking to the most recent videos in the channel.
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