Monday, May 4, 2009

Rare and beautiful - Crested Coralroot (Hexalectris spicata)

While vouchered specimens of this species have been found in many counties in the state of Florida, this species is rarely seen, as it blends in quite well with the surrounding forest, making it difficult to see until you are quite close. Then, the true beauty of these flowers is revealed. Each is a little over an inch wide and scented pleasingly of baby powder. I would consider this perhaps the second- or third-most attractive terrestrial orchid in the state of Florida (first is Cleistes bifaria, the Rosebud Orchid, which holds a special place in my heart as one of my first-observed native orchids).

The plants themselves bear no leaves, instead living in a mycotrophic relationship with fungi hosted (and consumed) in the coral-like roots. These fungi, in turn, send out mycelia throughout the soil and infect the roots of other plants, forming a network of nutrients funneled from one plant to another in a complex "nutrient highway" beneath the forest floor. While many orchids after the earliest seedling stage will bear leaves and begin to perform some of their own nutrient manufacture through photosynthesis, they never lose their fungal relationship entirely. The coralroots never grow beyond this earliest relationship, relying their entire lives on nutrients gathered from their fungi. Because of this delicate relationship, coralroots will die in short order if transplanted to another site.

You can read more about this species on my website at:

>> The Hexalectris spicata profile page at Florida Native Orchids <<


1 comment:

Robert V. Sobczak said...

I stopped by a cypress dome yesterday, hoping to see resurrection fern in newly revived mode ... but not yet.

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