Showing posts with label florida native orchid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label florida native orchid. Show all posts

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Marvel of Miniaturization - Dendrophylax porrectus

Here in central Florida, the diminutive leafless orchid, Dendrophylax porrectus (known commonly as the Jingle Bell Orchid or Needleroot Orchid), begins its blooming. Known previously as Harrisella porrecta, this species was reassigned to Dendrophylax following a molecular genetic study that placed it squarely within that genus. It does seem to defy logic, though, that this species with one of the smallest orchid flowers in Florida is closely akin to one of the largest-flowered species in our state--the ghost orchid.

These flowers really are remarkable in how they replicate the orchid flower structure in such a small package of just a few thousand cells (you can see the individual plant cells in the upper of the two images above), as opposed to the millions of cells that comprise larger orchid flowers. Amazingly enough, these miniscule marvels produce a potent night fragrance, not unlike baby powder mixed with a bit of a grassy undernote.

This species is an inhabitant of small twigs of cypress, eastern red cedar, pop ash, pond apple, and occasional old citrus groves. After flowering, the seed pods expand to become one of the most conspicuous aspects of this plant, turning a deep brownish orange prior to dehiscing. But even with all these hints, they will still be notoriously hard to find.

You can read more about this species on its profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids site:

>>> Click to View Dendrophylax porrectus profile page <<<

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Out of Africa - a Mystery

It is fairly clear where the African Spotted Orchid, Oeceoclades maculata (pronounced Ee-see-oh-klad-eez mack-you-lat-ah), originated. What is less clear is how it got here in the state of Florida. This is one of our most frequently encountered naturalized orchids, second to the Lawn Orchid (Zeuxine strateumatica), making its home equally well in the edges of moist swamps and under our landscaping. Its habitat seems to be expanding rapidly from southern Florida into central Florida and perhaps beyond.

Read more about this mysterious visitor from far away lands on the Florida Native Orchids website:

>>> Oeceoclades maculata profile page <<<

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ghost Whispering

With our large van out of commission on the south side of Naples, FL after leaving the COS symposium, we were able to convince my eldest son, Josh, to come pick us up. This made for a rather harrowing early morning ride back to Orlando with two rather tired drivers (Josh and myself) taking tandem shifts to get us back. The van still in Naples, we had it towed to a nearby shop where they proceeded to repair it in our absence.

This, of course, meant that we had to go retrieve it once it had been fixed. So, Josh, Timothy (my 2nd oldest son) and I made the trip back down to Naples yesterday. Since we were already so close to the Fakahatchee Strand, Tim and I decided to press on to the swamp while Josh headed back to finish studying for finals coming up. I probably would get an award for evil dad of the day trying to convince Josh to postpone his studies and join us in the Fak...alas, he is too diligent of a student!

Now, I knew that this is late in the season to find blooming ghost orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii)...and a check of our usual haunts turned up bloomless plants. I had lost almost all hope when I followed my maps to one final plant seen on several trips before. This is the same plant showing a double bloom on my ghost orchid gallery page.

As I sighted up the trunk of the tree, my eyes were met with one of the last ghost orchid flowers of the season. I pointed this out to Tim, whose audible sigh let me know that he was experiencing that 'first ghost orchid in the wild' feeling. I had experienced this to some extent when seeing the ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp, but even moreso when I had seen my first flower only a few feet out of reach in the middle of the deep swamp.

It was a good thing I had my Canon 70-300 mm telephoto lens this day, as about 30 feet of stifling, mosquito-laden air separated me from my prize. We stayed there for roughly an hour, photographing the flower every time the light was good and the breeze was light. Here is a photo from this day...the day Tim whispered a sigh of awe at seeing his first wild ghost.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Butterfly Orchid - a Florida Icon on a Tee

We have just released a new t-shirt featuring Florida's popular and iconic orchid, Encyclia tampensis (common name: Florida Butterfly Orchid). I am wearing this tee-shirt right now, and I must say that it is quite lovely, if I do say so myself. The shirt itself features an entire plant with multiple flowers in the background and a closeup of a single flower in the foreground. It features both the common and scientific names of the plant, so it is both educational and beautiful to look at.

Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) t-shirt

It is available in all sizes from Small to 3XL. Click the following link to go to my Cafe Press store:

Florida Butterfly Orchid Tees at Cafe Press

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Snowy Orchid (Platanthera nivea) - Reprise

Photographs taken over 'classic black' with my new Canon Digital Rebel T3i:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corkscrew Swamp Ghost Orchid in Bloom

I have just been informed that the Corkscrew Swamp ghost orchid is in flower with seven flowers presently.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sometimes, one must travel far... find that orchid to photograph. In this case, our travels took us into southern Georgia to find Platanthera nivea in flower. The Florida localities that I tried came up empty, but it seems that these are running a little late this year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Publication Cover!

The reason I go out into the field to photograph Florida's wild orchids is because they interest me and I hope to share this interest with others, and this is its own reward. When one of my photographs is chosen for publication, I am honored and humbled that someone has considered using my work. Recently, I was approached to submit a photo of a Florida native orchid for use for the cover of the Florida State Horticultural Society Proceedings. After submitting several photos, we settled on a photo of "Miguel's ghost orchid", an orchid discovered by the late Miguel Urquia in a deep nook in the Fakahatchee Strand, that had four flowers open at once (I photographed it a few days before the final bud opened). They liked the photo so much, they wanted to use an additional photo for the back cover. Here are the two photos that appear on the front and back cover of the 2010 proceedings of the FSHS:

Front Cover:

Back Cover:

In celebration of this publication, I will be making limited edition prints of the photo of Miguel's ghost available for purchase at upcoming speaking engagements.

You can click here to go to the 2010 proceedings website.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green, Or Is It?

I recently came across a population of one of our more common orchids, Habenaria repens, in a wet ditch in the Orlando area. Known by the common name of 'Water Spider Orchid', plants are notoriously difficult to see even when in full flower, owing to the fact that the plant, along with its minuscule flowers (which are a bit over 1 cm wide), is completely green to yellow-green.

This might cause you to wonder, "How on earth would a completely green flower stand out enough from its background vegetation to be seen by a pollinator?" Just FYI, these flowers are not self-pollinating. It's easy enough to see a flash of pink, red, purple, blue, or buttery yellow against the sea of background vegetation and hone in on the location of a flower, even from a fair distance, but green just blends in with all the other greens that you see. The answer is that it's all a matter of timing.

Walk by the same roadside ditch at night and the flowers will be even less observable by the sense of sight. But even our ridiculously dull sense of smell will pick up a distinct, sweet fragrance wafting over the shallow water. A night flying moth, with a much stronger sense of smell, will be able to find these flowers from miles away, provided that it is not misled by all of our 'artificial moons' (electric lights of various kinds) that interfere with its sense of lunar navigation. Following this stream of sweet odor, these vampires of the Lepidoptera make their way to their quarry. Inserting their probosces into the spur-like nectary that is formed by the back of the lip, they drink sweet nectar from the last few millimeters at the end of the spur. This reward is not, however, offered without its price. The eyes of the insects engage the tips of the pollen-bearing structures (known as pollinia) which are coated with a sticky glue. Thus, when the insect withdraws, its eyes now bear the pollinia to carry them to the next flower. It's a dance between insect and flower that goes largely unobserved, unless you happen to shine a flashlight on a flowering stem at just the right moment.

This strategy of night-scented orchids is actually pretty common in Florida, although not all of them are green-flowered. Some flowers are brilliant white, which might make them more observable in the dim starlight or moonlight that reaches the inner recesses of the forests and swamps where many of these species make their homes. Here is a list of Floridian orchids that are known to be night-scented:

  • Dendrophylax lindenii
  • Dendrophylax porrectus
  • Epidendrum amphistomum
  • Epidendrum floridense
  • Epidendrum magnoliae
  • Epidendrum nocturnum
  • Habenaria macroceratitis
  • Habenaria odontopetala
  • Habenaria quinqueseta
  • Habenaria repens
  • Tipularia discolor
And here is a list of species that are likely night-scented as well, extrapolating from their inconspicuously colored flowers:
  • Epidendrum rigidum
  • Epidendrum strobiliferum
  • Habenaria distans
  • Platanthera flava
  • Platanthera clavellata
I would be interested to hear about anyone's experience around these species, whether or not they have a night fragrance as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Master of Disguise

This past weekend, while out on a photography trip, we came across this little girl hanging out on a Spring Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes vernalis) inflorescence. Spiders are often encountered on flowers of all sorts, mostly ambush predators like this Crab Spider and the Green Lynx Spider. They lie in wait for a hapless insect to come near them and then they pounce! These spiders are known to alter their coloration to match their surroundings and thus blend in. Imagine the next time you go to your refrigerator, a predator disguised as a salami pounces on you and eats you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Old Man of the Swamp - Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

This is the story of the Old Man of the Swamp.

Years ago, perhaps around the same time that this photograph was taken of a cartload of orchids cribbed from the swamps (including Cigar Orchids, Mule-ear Oncidiums, and Dollar Orchids - Cyrtopodum punctatum, Trichocentrum undulatum, and Prosthechea boothiana, respectively),

a small cigar orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) began its tenuous existence on a buttonwood somewhere deep in the Everglades. As time went on, its forest grew, never too tall, as this was a harsh environment-- shielding this plant from unfriendly eyes. In time, long after these orchid collectors had left, it became a large specimen, engulfing the fork in the tree that it called home.

Eventually, however, the winds of a hurricane came barreling through the 'glades, knocking down the surrounding trees and killing the tree that this orchid calls home, reducing it to a bare stump crowned with the orchid. Now an old man, yet hale and hearty, it continues to offer up its fragrant saffron-and-crimson flowers, each about an inch across, to the busying bumblebees that visit it in hopes of collecting nectar.

We, too, come here to its ancient ruin of a home, in a different era where some folks are more apt to leave plants be than to try to collect them, destined to die in some garden--especially considering the fact that this plant grows on federally protected property. We visit it in its waning years, for, surely, its host stump cannot forestall wind, weather, and the decay of time forever. One day, hopefully many years from now, it will plunge into the brackish water below and meet its final demise, but not before it has shed many dust-like seeds into the surrounding forest still standing...these seeds may become new seedlings, and if left undisturbed by wind, water, men, and the threat of a rising ocean, they may become massive plants like this old man--destined to repeat his life cycle and continue the existence of his kind well into the future.

You can view my Cowhorn/Cigar Orchid information page at the following link:

>>> Cowhorn/Cigar Orchid Information Page <<<

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Giant of Liliputian Proportions - Pteroglossaspis ecristata

Pteroglossaspis ecristata is a plant of contradictions. While once fairly common in Florida, its population has declined in recent years, becoming much harder to find in flower. Its paper-thin leaves are reinforced with stiff veins, making them resemble a palmetto seedling. Its sometimes exceptionally tall flowering stems are capped with small flowers, each only 1 to 1.5 cm tall.

My son, Josh, admiring a tall flowering plant.

While inflorescences up to 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) are not unheard of, a more typical flowering stem height is 2 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9 meters) tall.

The flowers themselves are not extraordinarily attractive...perhaps more bizarre than anything else. Luer, in an illustration in his book, likens them to a number of turbaned Sikhs peering around the stem. Paul Martin Brown describes them as "green and black orchids on a stick". It is often hard to capture more than one or two flowers face-on in a photograph owing to how the flowers twist around the stem.

You can read more about this species here:

>> Pteroglossaspis ecristata information page <<

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest Observant

When I was a teenager, my mom and I would often take drives out into the Apalachicola National Forest or the Lake Talquin State Forest nearby just to see what could be seen. As we ran across interesting plants that we had not seen before, we would consult our guidebooks, as well as the resident botanist and herbarium director at Florida State University, Dr. Loran Anderson (now retired). We had established a good rapport with him and I especially would report any new orchid finds. I was able to help him obtain a few orchid specimens for his herbarium that he did not have, as well as establish new records for several species not seen before in Leon County - Zeuxine strateumatica, Platanthera flava, and Platanthera ciliaris.

I also remember running across a population of Spiranthes that resembled S. praecox, but the habit and blooming time of these was off (about a month too early and in woodlands, as opposed to open, wet areas). I had brought this to Dr. Anderson's attention on occasion, but never really pursued the matter further. About a decade later, Paul Martin Brown described this species formally as Spiranthes sylvatica, or the Woodland Ladies' Tresses.


Fast forward to a year or two ago. My son, Josh, and I were photographing Malaxis spicata in an area near Ocala, FL. While out there, Josh brought to my attention a plant that had variegated leaves. I remember reading in Paul Martin Brown's Wild Orchids of Florida about a variegated Malaxis, so I chalked it up to another find of this form. I did photograph it, as it appeared interesting. When I consulted the book back at home, I realized that he had described a variegated form of Malaxis unifolia, not M. spicata. In other words, this was a form that had not yet been formally introduced to science! Thankfully, I was able to correlate the gps trail that our Garmin unit had recorded with the time stamp of the photograph, so we had an approximate locality for the plant. Upon our return, after about an hour of searching for it, we relocated the plant, put a colored flag on it, and covered it with a wire hanging basket to protect it from deer and hog browse.

We brought this plant to Paul's attention, and he formally described the variegated form of this species in the North American Native Orchid Journal in the August 2009 edition as Malaxis spicata forma variegata P.M. Brown, P. & J. Subrahmanyam forma nov. . You can view this journal on-line at the following link:

And here is the photograph of this newly described form that we saw that day:

Malaxis spicata fma variegata P. M. Brown, P & J Subrahmanyam

So, while I had missed out on the opportunity to bring an entirely new species to science, which would be, admittedly, much cooler, I did have the opportunity to bring a newly described form of an existing species to science. And, as I continue to head out into the field to photograph orchid species, who knows what might still be out there to discover?

As a footnote, a colleague of mine was out photographing the variegated Malaxis and discovered a plant nearby completely lacking the orange color in the other words, an albescent form of the species. This form was also described in the same article and named after his daughter Morgan as Malaxis spicata forma morganiae P. M. Brown.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Truly Albino Grass Pink.

In this case, albino would mean a complete lack of the typical pink color. The orange-yellow in the psuedo-pollen bristles persists.

This is only the second time in my life that I've seen a grass pink this color. Below is a typical color form:

You can read more about this species on its profile page:
Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tipularia discolor, or 'After the Flowers of Summer Are Gone'

Tipularia discolor, known commonly as the Cranefly Orchid, is vegetatively active during two different seasons of the year in the hardwood forests that it calls home. While most terrestrial orchids (of which T. discolor is one) hibernate during the winter and grow and flower during the warmer months of the year, this summer-flowering orchid produces its frost-and-freeze-resistant leaves during the fall, winter, and early spring, in habitats ranging from central Florida into southern Ohio. In fact, it is during the leafing stage of this orchid that it is most easily found, their solitary green leaves, deep purple underneath and often spotted with purple on top, are one of the few things green at all during the winter months. One will often encounter fairly sizable clumps of plants during this time of year.

In spring, the leaves fade as the trees overhead begin to leaf out again and diminish the light reaching the forest floor. If the plant has stored enough nutrients in its chain of underground corms, it may decide to flower in summer (typically around July-August). The flowering stems blend very well with their surrounding environment, so they are quite difficult to spot, even when in full flower. Curiously, only about ten percent of the plants seen in winter time will flower in the summer. They obviously seem to have very fertile seed, considering the size of the colonies typically seen in winter.

Their flowers are curiously asymmetrical, with the dorsal sepal and lip skewed to one side of the central axis, and one of the lateral petals typically twisted down to overlap its corresponding lateral sepal. The spur extending from the back of the lip is filled with nectar.
Research done on the pollinators (W. P. Stoutamire 1978) of this orchid indicates that these flowers are pollinated by noctuid moths. I have observed a faint, sweet night fragrance in the flowers, which is consistent with this research. To find out some more interesting facts about this flower's pollination scheme, visit the link below for my Tipularia discolor information page.

You can visit the Tipularia discolor page on the Florida Native Orchids site by clicking the following link:

>>> Tipularia discolor info page <<<

2011 Florida Wild Orchid Calendars Are Here!!!!

Click to find out more about the Florida Wild Orchid calendarsI am pleased to announce that we now have the 2011 editions of the Florida Wild Orchid calendars available for purchase. These three calendars, assembled through Cafe Press, feature photographs of wild Florida orchids taken in locations throughout the state of Florida, along with educational information on each orchid species featured. Please click the image above to see more about these handsome calendars.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Florida's Oft-overlooked Ghost Orchid-- Dendrophylax porrectus

We are now entering the blooming season for Florida's enigmatic 'Little Ghost Orchid' (not its actual common name - Jingle Bell Orchid or Needleroot Orchid are the most often used names). It was originally discovered in Florida growing in a citrus grove near Oneco, FL, then having the name Aeranthus porrectus. It has since bounced around between several genera and species - Harrisella porrecta, Campylocentrum porrectum, Campylocentrum filiforme, to finally land in the genus Dendrophylax (as Dendrophylax porrectus) , the same genus as its more famous cousin, the Ghost Orchid. While the Ghost Orchid has large, showy flowers, Dendrophylax porrectus has tiny, inconspicuous flowers barely bigger than a pinhead growing on a plant that is easily overlooked, being just a bundle of untidy roots. It is most likely the most common epiphytic orchid in Florida, but is very rarely it a state protected status of Threatened. While the range of other epiphytic orchids has decreased due to freezes in the 70s and 80s, folks continue to find new northern populations, gradually extending its known range northward. While it used to be found commonly in citrus groves, the use of herbicides to control ball mosses, wild pines and other air plants of the genus Tillandsia has made it unlikely to find them in this habitat anymore.

Its seed pods are probably the most conspicuous aspect of this plant, fairly large and turning a bright brown-orange just prior to dehiscing.

The most common host trees for this orchid are Eastern Red Cedar, Pop Ash, Bald Cypress, and Pond Apple. They are most commonly found on small twigs an inch or less in diameter, especially in the crooks between branches, but I have seen plants growing on larger branches and, even in one case, on a fairly large tree trunk. The typical habitat for these will be near a swampy area where other more moisture-loving epiphytes are growing - Encyclia tampensis, Epidendrum magnoliae, Tillandsia setacea, Tillandsia bartramii, Tillandsia utriculata, Tillandsia balbisiana, Tillandsia variabilis, Tillandsia fasciculata, Tillandsia paucifolia (bulbosa), Tillandsia simulata. Look up at the undersides of branches for slender, silvery orchid roots that don't connect to anything resembling a plant. If you're lucky, you'll see the tiny green flowers that are a marvel of miniaturization nestled amongst split seed pods that look very much like little brown bells.

It blooms from August in central Florida into November in the southern counties. Click the link below to see more photographs and read more about this intriguing miniature orchid:

>> Dendrophylax porrectus (Harrisella porrecta) Information Page at Florida Native Orchids <<

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Michaux's Orchid (Habenaria quinqueseta)

Michaux's Orchid (Habenaria quinqueseta) is rather widespread in the state of Florida, being found in a large swathe of the peninsula and even a few panhandle counties. Its spidery white-green flowers emerge from this time of year in north-central Florida into wintertime in the southernmost counties. I had the privilege of photographing this orchid at a lovely couple's house in the Brooksville, Florida (Citrus County) area. While I was not able to be there to verify this in person, they described the flowers as having a night fragrance that strongly resembled magnolias.

Interestingly enough, as I was reading their e-mail describing the fragrance, another e-mail came in from someone who lived in the same general area asking me to identify her yard volunteer orchids. It turned out to be more of the same species growing not five miles from where I was photographing that day. Apparently, these orchids like to grow in people's yards in the Brooksville area. This makes me want to move to Brooksville.

The spidery flowers are the largest of the Habenarias in the US, spanning 1.5 to 2 inches (3.7 to 5cm) across.

A previous post to this blog showed Habenaria macroceratitis, which some consider as a variety of H. quinqueseta. Others maintain this to be a separate species, based on several characteristics, including the spur length (H. quinqueseta has a significantly shorter spur/nectary than H. macroceratitis)

You can read more about this species at the new information page at the Florida Native Orchid website:

>> Michaux's Orchid Information Page at <<

I have also created an information page for H. macroceratitis:

>> Long-horned False Rein Orchid at<<


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Holding Court with Royalty, Part 6 - Behold the Queen!!! (Platanthera blephariglottis)

If Platanthera ciliaris is the King of the Bog, then the White Fringed Orchid could certainly be considered The Queen. Her cream-white flowers closely resemble the Orange Fringed Orchid, but differ not only in color (at one point she was considered an albino form of the Orange Fringed), but also in shape and the depth of fringing on the lip.

I was directed back in 2004 to an area where these orchids were supposed to be found in northeastern Florida. Following the map I had been given, I drove relentlessly back and forth on this one stretch of highway, trying to spot these orchids. After a few hours of searching, I had no seemed that the area where these were supposed to grow had been mowed down to within an inch of its life. Finally, I headed home with a heavy heart, thinking that all was lost.

I happened to glance over to the other side of the road well out of the indicated range on the map, and a fleeting glimpse of white caught my eye. As I exited the car, my heart leapt into my throat...three plants were just starting to open their first flowers. I marked the area and returned the next week to flowering stems as fully open as they could be (by the time the top buds open, the bottom flowers are far past spent).

Four years passed by...after which I returned to the area with better photographic equipment, hoping to reprise my earlier photographs. This time, our timing must have been off, as the only orchids to be seen were a few Crested Fringed Orchids along a side road...probably a bit too early for The Queen.

The next year, I returned to find two White Fringed plants on their very last flower...obviously too late in the year. Of course, you have to add to the mix the fact that an unseasonably cool or warm winter can throw these plants off by several weeks, making their blooming time a bit of a moving target.

This year, armed with the dates of the previous years' attempts, we finally found a group of plants in flower. The camera was pulled out and a few nice pictures resulted. The next week proved even better...there must have been a hundred plants scattered along this one area maybe one quarter mile long. At long last, I was able to recapture these beauties at a higher resolution to present for your viewing pleasure.

To see all the photos, head over to the newly revised White Fringed Orchid Page, linked below:

>> White Fringed Orchid Information Page <<

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