Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My favorite wild orchid...

I leave you this year with a photo of my favorite wild orchid...Cleistes bifaria. While it is the second wild orchid I ever saw in the wild, it has a very fond memory for me...when I was a teenager in Tallahassee, FL, we discovered a colony of these growing within walking distance of our house. Over the next 20 years, I watched this colony every year at the end of April, greeting their vanilla-scented flowers growing out from between the wiregrasses and fetterbushes where these made their home. You can read even more about this orchid on my website.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Baby Orchid (Dendrophylax porrectus/Harrisella porrecta)

While out hiking Flagler trail (which inspired the poem below 'Among Giants'), I approached a tree a bit off the main trail in the hunt for Jingle Bell Orchids (Dendrophylax porrectus - aka Harrisella porrecta). As I scanned the branches, I noticed a familiar sight...a number of small green shield-like leaves--each only 1-2 mm long--with emerging roots. I had found a number of newly germinated seedlings. This is the only leaf that the plant will have, as it rapidly grows into one of Florida's "leafless" orchids, bearing only small, scale-like leaf sheaths shielding a very abbreviated stem. The roots and flower spikes emerge directly from this stem and perform all the photosynthesis for this plant. Curiously, I found the seedlings before I found the "mama" plant on a nearby twig.

Here is a photo of one of the seedlings:

And here is a photo of what a "mama plant" looks like at this time of year:

And here is a photo of a plant in bloom back in September of last year:

The flowers are tiny, only about 3 mm across. Interestingly enough, they are strongly fragrant at night like many other angraecoids.

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 <<<


Friday, December 19, 2008

Habenaria floribunda (aka Habenaria odontopetala)

On a recent hike in a wilderness area on the north side of Orlando in Seminole County, we discovered a number of Habenaria floribunda (which used to be called Habenaria odontopetala and are listed as such in Luer) orchids in all stages of life, from small seedlings to mature plants in full bloom. One plant in particular stood out from all the rest. While most were located in reasonably moist areas under mostly hardwood trees, this plant was in a semi-dry area underneath a cluster of pine trees. It also happens to be the tallest plant of this species that I have seen to date, standing around 30 inches tall with fifty flowers in all stages of development from near-ripened seed pods towards the bottom all the way to a single remaining bud at the top of the plant.

Here is a closeup of the flowers:

They look to me like little angry green goblins. Add a few spider webs and you have a truly "spooky" image, albeit a little late for Halloween. They are most likely moth pollinated, as they become intensely fragrant at night (in fact, I had discovered another population of these orchids in another Seminole County park toward evening time by just the scent alone). As to whether the scent is pleasant, it depends on who you ask. Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida, states that they have a distinctly unpleasant odor, which is in agreement with another nature photographer friend of mine. I, however, actually find the scent to be sweet and pleasant, if a little overpowering when you get close to the plant. Several of my children like the fragrance, while some others do not.  As I have informally polled individuals who have encountered this species, it ends up being about a 50/50 split between those who find the scent pleasant or unpleasant.

This is actually one of the more common orchids, inhabiting most every county in the Florida peninsula and growing in woodlands and swamps.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Among Giants: A Poem

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?

Their buttressed knees reaching down into the sands of times gone past.

Their long beards trailing through the air.

Their hoary heads shaking, filled with memories of the ages.

Among the giants today

I walked.

© 2008, Prem Subrahmanyam, All rights reserved


Oval Ladies Tresses

A recent field trip to a known area in north-central Florida netted us this rare beauty. The Oval Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes ovalis) is very rarely seen, owing to its small stature and its general rarity.

After roughly an hour of hunting (during which time we saw several Spiranthes odorata in flower), we finally began to find some of these plants along with the natural hybrid/intergrade between these two, Spiranthes x ichteuckneensis.

Look for updates soon to my website with this species, along with the others we found that day.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dreaming in Black and White

Congratulations for finding this blog! Welcome to Florida's Native Orchids. I thought I'd get started by posting a "fine art" black and white treatment of a favorite orchid of mine. This is Pteroglossaspis pottsii, aka Potts' Orchid, found in one small area in Citrus County, FL. As I was editing one of the pictures I took in September of this year, the selection mask for the color range I was editing looked really cool as a standalone black and white treatment. So, I posted it as its own standalone image.

Here is the original:

and here is the image with a black and white treatment...I think it looks a bit like an old Daguerotype photo (sans the sepia tone):

This species was described in early 2007 as a distinct species as compared to Pteroglossaspis ecristata fma purpurea, which it somewhat resembles.

You can read more about this orchid here on my website:

Pteroglossaspis pottsii


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