I have posted a profile of Vanilla mexicana (common name: Fuchs' Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla) to the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids page, giving some detailed information on this species, its historical range, photos, classification, synonymy and other data. A naturalist/photographer friend of mine, Chris Evans, had relocated a seemingly extirpated population of these extremely rare plants in a natural area in southeastern Florida. I joined him the next weekend to explore the nearby swamp, armed with some additional information on specific plant locations. In the process, we found a very robust, large plant sporting many seed pods, a bud and an open flower.
Photographing the flower was particularly challenging, as it was roughly 12 feet up the tree, thankfully in some very strong, slightly-diffused sunlight, which allowed a fast shutter speed and good depth of field. My two sons who had accompanied me helped stabilize the fully extended tripod with my camera mounted on top, angling downward. Using the flip-out screen on my Canon T3i, I was able to judge approximately where the camera was pointing in live preview mode. I then used my infrared remote trigger to fire off shot after shot. Many shots were blurry or misframed, but a few came out in decent shape. Combining two shots with slightly different focal points, I was able to get the majority of the highly 3-dimensional flower in focus.
Plant climbing up a Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto) tree:
Please follow the link below to see the full on-line profile for this species:
Neither the Greenfly Orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae) nor the Water Spider Orchid (Habenaria repens) is a particularly rare plant. In fact, both are quite common in the state of Florida.
Epidendrum magnoliae can be found in most of the state, only excluded from the southern third of the peninsula. You need only scan the branches of oak trees in hammock, swamp, and riverine areas in its range and you are almost sure to find some plants growing. Its range is surprisingly northerly for a tropical epiphytic orchid, being found as far north as coastal North Carolina. Plants in the north tend to bloom in June with another flush of flowers in late fall, while southern plants seem to favor August with a potential second flush of flowers in mid-winter. The following video shows plants in flower in a natural area in southwestern Seminole County, Florida.
While hiking to some of the spots where we knew some particularly accessible Epidendrum magnoliae to grow, we discovered a previously unknown colony of Water Spider Orchids (Habenaria repens) growing in a small pond. H. repens is a truly inconspicuous orchid, blending quite well with other pond vegetation. Even in full flower, the green flowers are quite inconspicuous, relying on night-produced perfume rather than sight to attract their pollinators. The following video shows some of the plants we discovered that day:
On a recent excursion, I ran across a specimen of Encyclia tampensis with an unusual color, perhaps a coerulean form of the species with a lilac-colored patch on the lip as opposed to the usual bright magenta.
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:
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
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
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
NOTE: due to the rare nature of the orchids we will be
photographing, these upcoming field trips will not be open to the
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
Here is the link to make a secure donation to our cause
via PayPal using either an existing PayPal account or a debit/credit
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 email@example.com 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. Sincerely, ---Prem Subrahmanyam and the Florida Native Orchids crew.
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.
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 www.orchidsmadeeasy.com 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:
Introduction 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 Conclusion 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:
I am a software engineer based in the metro Orlando area. On weekends, you will often find me in the field with my family photographing Florida's native orchids. I also give lectures on these orchids at many orchid, garden, and native plant societies. I am also an avid fossil hunter.
Pholidota chinensis in bloom last month
I can't believe I haven't posted since November! Definitely overdue :)
One of my newer orchis is a Pholidota chinensis, which I acquired February 2010 @ the...