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.
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