Here is a video I shot recently in north-central Florida showing the Orange (Yellow) Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) in full bloom. It is the first of 16 videos I have on my channel depicting our native orchids.
This is a major milestone! It is the 50th native orchid profile/photo gallery published to the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids website. This is one of the rarer orchids in our state, Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum, known alternately as the Ribbon Orchid or the Thick-root Orchid. It is distantly related to the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) and is a bit more common, but still exceedlingly rare. To make matters worse for this species, individual plants are sometimes poached because structurally, they resemble Ghost Orchids somewhat. Imagine the disappointment for said poacher when, instead of seeing a large, white flower (if the plant even lives to flowering), he/she sees a tiny, inconspicuous flower.
Plants of this species can be easily distinguished from Ghost Orchids even when out of flower. Read up on them on the new gallery/profile to educate yourself on this species. Here is the profile entry:
I have posted a new profile on the Florida Native Orchid site for Carter's Orchid (Basiphyllaea corallicola). It is an exceedingly rare orchid, found only on a very few occasions in the ever shrinking (due to rampant overdevelopment) pine rockland ecosystem. Here is the link to the profile: http://flnativeorchids.com/natives_gallery/basiphyllaea_corallicola.htm and here is one of the images from the new page:
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:
On a recent excursion, I ran across a specimen of Encyclia tampensis with an unusual color, perhaps a coerulean form of the species with a lilac-colored patch on the lip as opposed to the usual bright magenta.
This past weekend, a small band of explorers (my wife, two plant researchers, and myself) made a foray into the Fakahatchee Strand and nearby areas to see Ghost Orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii) in the wild and hopefully catch at least one in flower. We were disappointed to find that the trees that hosted many ghost orchids in the past had been broken by storms or otherwise dead due to natural causes. On some of the living trees, we also found dead orchids...cause of death: unknown. All told, from an area where we had previously seen about 15 plants, only five remained. These two sloughs which held many ghosts in their heyday were a sad vestige of their former selves. To add insult to injury, several ghost orchids were stolen from these areas in the past year.
Thankfully, in another nearby area, we found a healthy population of ghost orchids, after wading into water and thick mud beneath that sometimes had us submerged chest high and tugging our feet furiously out of the mud trying to arch our toes so as not to lose a shoe. It was less than half a mile of walking, but one of the most grueling hikes I have ever done. Several plants were in bud, which seemed to be our consolation prize. My thoughts raced to strategies for trying to come back the next week. Just as we were deciding to head back, I thought to loop around one large buttressed pond apple tree at the very edge of the area...lo and behold, just as I rounded one of the several trunks, a beautiful near-white flower met my eyes with a bud opening up just above it. The morning light shone around the tree, leaving the roots in shadow but the flower catching the sun's rays, enhancing the otherworldly look of this ephemeral flower.
We took video and photos of the plant, which I present here:
This was an especially meaningful trip for me, as during all my previous visits to the Fakahatchee Strand, my wife was at home tending to nursing babies. I kept promising her that when they were grown enough, I would take her to see ghost orchids up close in the wild. I was able to make good on that promise this past weekend.
I took many photos of this superlative orchid, which I will be adding to the profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids website. You can view that full profile and find out more information about the ghost orchids by following the link below:
This past weekend, I took a hike down Flagler Trail near the town of Geneva, FL. At the end of the trail close to the river, I came upon some majestic old Live Oak and Baldcypress trees, festooned with mosses. As far as orchids go, I did find a few Dendrophylax (Harrisella) porrectus plants growing in one tree in the area, although I'm sure if they're in one tree, they're in others as well. As I explored the area, getting lost among the trees, I could hear every-now-and-again the cry of Bald Eagles flying overhead. I ventured close to the edge of the river and saw a historical marker, which said the following:
King Philip (Emaltha) and his son, Wildcat (Coacoochee), together with about 200 Seminoles, had a settlement here, which they felt threatened by the army camp at Lake Monroe in 1836-37. The resulting conflict at the camp on Feb 8, 1837, changed the name of Camp Monroe to Fort Mellon (Sanford). Later names for this Indian settlement were Cook's Ferry, Bridge End, Osceola, and now Osceola Fish Camp. The nearby shell mound was examined by anthropologists Daniel Britton in the 1850's, Jeffries Wyman in the 1860's, and Clarence B. Moore in the 1890's. A similar plaque at the trailhead also noted the fact that after the attack on Fort Mellon, the Seminoles were driven from the area.
The events and sights of this day inspired the following poem: Among Giants by Prem Subrahmanyam
I walked among the giants today. Their hoary heads shaking, filled with memories of the ages. Their long beards trailing through the air. Their buttressed knees reaching down into the sands of times gone past. I heard an eagle's cry, cold and piercing I heard the branches sigh in a wind passing down from ages past to years yet uncounted.
I stood upon the brink and saw the ruin of a nation only the hills remember their names, etched in blades of snowy white I wandered to a time when another stood here as I do now. He heard the eagle's cry, wild and free. He heard the branches sigh in a wind passing down from ages past to years yet uncounted. I wandered further to a time when no one yet had marked this place wild creatures strange and powerful laid down in the dust to rise no more only the hills remember their names, their bones encased in tombs of stone. They heard the eagle's cry, strong and new. They heard the branches sigh in a wind passing down from ages past to years yet uncounted. I wandered even further to a time when I am no more a shadow that briefly darkened the hills and is remembered no longer. On that day another stood here as I do now Did he wander to my time and further back, regarding those who stood here as he does now? Did he hear the eagle's cry, fierce and undaunted? Did he hear the branches sigh in a wind passing down from ages past to years yet uncounted?
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.