Friday, December 19, 2008

Habenaria odontopetala

On a recent hike in a wilderness area on the north side of Orlando in Seminole County, we discovered a number of Habenaria odontopetala orchids in all stages of life, from small seedlings to mature plants in full bloom. One plant in particular stood out from all the rest. While most were located in reasonably moist areas under mostly hardwood trees, this plant was in a semi-dry area underneath a cluster of pine trees. It also happens to be the tallest plant of this species that I have seen to date, standing around 30 inches tall with fifty flowers in all stages of development from near-ripened seed pods towards the bottom all the way to a single remaining bud at the top of the plant.


Here is a closeup of the flowers:


They look to me like little angry green goblins. Add a few spider webs and you have a truly "spooky" image, albeit a little late for Halloween. They are most likely moth pollinated, as they become intensely fragrant at night (in fact, I had discovered another population of these orchids in another Seminole County park toward evening time by just the scent alone). As to whether the scent is pleasant, it depends on who you ask. Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida, states that they have a distinctly unpleasant odor, which is in agreement with another nature photographer friend of mine. I, however, actually find the scent to be sweet and pleasant, if a little overpowering when you get close to the plant. Several of my children like the fragrance, while some others do not.

This is actually one of the more common orchids, inhabiting most every county in the Florida peninsula.

Enjoy!
---Prem
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