Showing posts with label Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis). Show all posts

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flowers of Early Summer

May in many areas of the northern hemisphere would be considered late spring. In central and southern Florida, it is decidedly summer-like already with temperatures in the 90s and a blazing sun that will burn your skin in a matter of minutes. Here are a few flowers that you might encounter in Florida at this time. It is by no means an exhaustive list, as many more species are in flower than just fact, at any time of the year in Florida, as many as 40 species might be in flower somewhere in our wild areas. Click each thumbnail to go to the full profile page for the species on my website.

Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus)
Grass Pink Profile Page

Scarlet Ladies Tresses (Sacoila lanceolata)
Scarlet Ladies Tresses Profile Page

Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid Profile Page

Water Spider Orchid (Habenaria repens)
Water Spider Orchid Profile Page

Spring Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes vernalis)
Spring Ladies Tresses Profile Page

Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides)
Rose Pogonia Profile Page

Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis)
Florida Butterfly Orchid Profile Page

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Florida's Dancing Lady Orchid - May she continue to dance!!!

Florida's dancing lady orchid...Tolumnia bahamensis.

This little beauty, related to Oncidium, used to be found in quite a few wild areas in the coastal scrub in a very restricted area of southeastern coastal Florida...although due to its very restricted habitat, it has never been common, even in its heyday. Heavy development has all but wiped this species out, but a few plants still eke out a tenuous existence within a local state park and a very few remaining empty lots. While the land is protected where this species grows, collection by poachers continues to be a very real threat. This species is considered endangered in the state of Florida and is thus protected by state law.

For someone fortunate enough to be out in the field in one of these few localities, the search for plants is quite daunting...their heads of whitish flowers reach to the edge of the wild rosemary (not related to the spice) and palmetto scrub beneath an overstory of scrubby pine trees. To add to the insult for this species, seed pods seem to form only rarely, perhaps pointing to a decline in their natural pollinators...I would suspect copious use of pesticides in surrounding housing developments to keep boring, green lawns looking their best may be to blame, but that's only pure conjecture on my part. This is a more common species in the Bahamas, from whence its specific epithet is derived. It is also related to (and some would consider it synonymous with) Tol. variegata, which can readily be found in cultivation.

The plants themselves grow like a typical equitant Oncidium (i.e. Tolumnia) with somewhat narrower leaves arranged in small fans around microscopic pseudobulbs. Each fan is joined to the last by a rather long isthmus of rhizome (atypical for Tolumnias), which can actually look like an emerging flower spike before the leaves start to fan out at the tip. They grow in the bases of rosemary, palmetto, and/or pine twigs very low to the ground, with their root tips actually buried beneath the pine needle litter in the sand.

Each flower is between 1/2 and one inch across, depending on the plant (Luer shows a photo of a sheet covered with numerous individual flowers, showing marked variation in flower shape and size, in his epic work, The Native Orchids of Florida). The flowers are somewhat unpleasantly scented--the best way I can describe it is that it is similar to the smell of the commercial herbicide, Round-Up.

You can find out more about this species on its profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchid Website:

Tolumnia bahamensis

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