Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rare form of Hexalectris spicata

While out photographing the previous Hexalectris spicata flowers, my daughters and I noticed one spike in the area that was decidedly paler than the other emerging spikes (which were already turning a dusky red). It was several weeks away from flower, so we flagged it for a colleague to observe when he was in the area...being closer, he was able to keep tabs on the flowers as they grew, so we were able to return when they had finally opened. This is a nearly alba form of Hexalectris spicata, with only the faintest color on the tepals and lip. A true albino form, fma. wilderi, would have no color at all, while fma. albolabia would have no coloration on the lip of an otherwise normally colored flower. This form has no formal description as of yet, although something very similar is pictured in Paul Martin Brown's Wild Orchids of Florida in the section on this species.

You can read more about this species on my website (and view the typical color form) at:

>> The Hexalectris spicata profile page at Florida Native Orchids <<

Canon Digital Rebel XTi, f22, ISO100, 1/200s. Flash through a diffuser. Composite of two photographs, one of the upper flower and one of the lower flower.

Unfortunately, most of the spike had wilted due to what appeared to be the nips of a hungry insectoid creature (although it could've been a fungal or bacterial rot), so these were the only good flowers remaining.


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

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rare and beautiful - Crested Coralroot (Hexalectris spicata)

While vouchered specimens of this species have been found in many counties in the state of Florida, this species is rarely seen, as it blends in quite well with the surrounding forest, making it difficult to see until you are quite close. Then, the true beauty of these flowers is revealed. Each is a little over an inch wide and scented pleasingly of baby powder. I would consider this perhaps the second- or third-most attractive terrestrial orchid in the state of Florida (first is Cleistes bifaria, the Rosebud Orchid, which holds a special place in my heart as one of my first-observed native orchids).

The plants themselves bear no leaves, instead living in a mycotrophic relationship with fungi hosted (and consumed) in the coral-like roots. These fungi, in turn, send out mycelia throughout the soil and infect the roots of other plants, forming a network of nutrients funneled from one plant to another in a complex "nutrient highway" beneath the forest floor. While many orchids after the earliest seedling stage will bear leaves and begin to perform some of their own nutrient manufacture through photosynthesis, they never lose their fungal relationship entirely. The coralroots never grow beyond this earliest relationship, relying their entire lives on nutrients gathered from their fungi. Because of this delicate relationship, coralroots will die in short order if transplanted to another site.

You can read more about this species on my website at:

>> The Hexalectris spicata profile page at Florida Native Orchids <<


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Rare Beauty - Almost Alba Grass Pink

AKA Calopogon tuberosus, this particular flower was just shy of being a true alba, with just a pale flush of color in the lip and the bases of the sepals/petals. Typical flower color for these is a medium pink, with variants ranging from true alba to eye-searing magenta. Located in the same general vicinity as the Rose Pogonias posted a few days ago.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Rare beauty - two flowered Rose Pogonia

Pogonia ophioglossoides, known as the Rose Pogonia or Snakemouth Orchid, is one of the most far-ranging orchids on the North American continent, being found as far north as southern Canada and as far south as south-central Florida. It is a relatively common orchid of moist, acid bogs, wet meadows, and pinelands, blooming at the height of spring (early summer in the north). Plants most of the time have a single flower (sometimes lightly scented of raspberries), but occasionally, two- and even three-flowered plants will appear within large, robust colonies. This particular plant was growing along a roadside in west-central Florida.

While it is wrapping up its blooming in central Florida, northern Florida should see this beauty in bloom for several more weeks.


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