Yes, Halloweed, not Halloween...where we celebrate hallowed weeds!
Here are a few spooky-looking or spooky-named fall-blooming orchids from the state of Florida:
odontopetala, or the toothpetal false rein orchid, is in flower now.
The small, 1/2-inch-wide flowers look like small goblins. The
spiderwebs add to the spooky effect. Did I mention that these flowers
are only fragrant at night? Haunting Florida swamps and forests with
their ghostly fragrance.
fall-blooming orchid, the Wild Coco (Eulophia alta) blooms in September
in central Florida, spreading into December in south Florida. The
flowers have somewhat of a resemblance to erect-eared, fanged dog heads.
With multiple "heads" per spike (which can reach up to five feet
tall), these are a worthy botanical analogue of Cerberus, the
multi-headed dog guarding the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology.
this orchid blooms in summertime, although occasional fall-blooming
plants are found. Still, with the common name of Ghost Orchid,
Dendrophylax lindenii is a perfect Halloween orchid. It is also keenly
night fragrant, pollinated by the Giant Sphinx Moth that also inhabits
Florida's haunted southern swamps.
Finally, Ponthieva racemosa
is known as the Shadow Witch, owing to its habit of growing in deep,
shadowy wooded areas. Blooming in October in northern Florida, it
blooms in November in central Florida and December in the far southern
end. This lovely little orchid is known for casting deep spells of wonder on those who find her in her secretive lair.
Click the "View the Gallery" graphic at the top of this blog page to see many more photos of Florida's amazing orchids.
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:
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...