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:
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.