This past year was special for me, as I have gotten to see many orchid species in bloom in the wild that I have not seen before. One of these was Ponthieva racemosa, also known as the Shadow Witch Orchid. Oddly enough, I've run across plants of this species since I was a teenager, but had been unable to get back to the locality during the fall when this species is in bloom. The closest I had come was seeing a plant rescued from a lot under construction in a subdivision near Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, but since the plant was in a pot, that didn't have quite the same impact.
While out hunting for other woodland species, rosettes of P. racemosa leaves show up frequently. They are easy to spot with their light green that, when the sunlight catches them just right, shimmer like satin. These are plants inhabiting moist, shady woodlands and floodplains, growing in areas that are surprisingly wet, but very infrequently under water (the floods after T.S. Fay were a rare exception, where large swaths of woods were inundated in the floodwaters).
In November, as I headed out to one park to photograph several species (and hybrids) of fall-blooming ladies' tresses, I finally found a few of these plants in flower. Cross one more orchid off the list. So, what did the flowers look like? Well, you'll have to wait until another blog post to see those.
Until next time...
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