Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ghost Orchid Painting - Experimenting with Watercolor Pencils

I was inspired to try something by a post several years ago on the previous instantiation of Misti Little's blog (Oceanic Wilderness in my blogroll). In the post, she was interviewing an artist friend who used watercolor pastels to do painting and was describing how they gave her the precision of pastel drawing with the final result looking like a watercolor after water was applied to the paper. This intrigued me immensely, so I filed this away in my brain. Fast-forward to about two weeks ago, where I was picking up some art supplies for my kids--I spied a box of watercolor pencils.

I figured I'd give them a whirl. I immediately fixed upon Miguel Urquia's Ghost Orchid as my subject of interest. Here's the photo below:

And here's the result. I feel like it's pretty good for my first effort, but I definitely have some room for improvement:

Here are a couple of detail shots:

Let me know what you think in the comments, but please remember, this is my first attempt at this medium.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15, 2010: Corkscrew Swamp Ghost Orchid Blooms again

I just received a tweet from the Corkscrew Swamp twitter feed indicating that there are four flowers open now on the 'Super Ghost Orchid' at Corkscrew Swamp. This will be the fourth flush of blooms this venerable orchid has had this year. To learn more about Corkscrew Swamp, click the page link below:

Corkscrew Swamp Home Page

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular orchid, the large ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp (often dubbed the 'Super Ghost') was discovered in 2007 at Corkscrew Swamp near Naples, Florida and is the only ghost orchid whose location is made known to the general public. I have blogged about this plant previously. Follow the link below to see these entries:

Corkscrew Ghost Orchid at The Florida Native Orchid Blog

This will likely be the last blooming for this orchid for this year (in fact, it's very hard to find any ghost orchids in bloom this late in the year), so if you can make the trip down there, you won't be disappointed.

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 <<

Holding Court with Royalty, Part 5 - The King of the Bog (Platanthera ciliaris)

Ascending from the moist pinelands, prairies, roadsides and bogs, the Orange Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) has no equal. The plants themselves can reach three feet (~1m) tall with flower heads 6 inches (15 cm) in height. Each heavily fringed flower is around 1 inch (2.5cm) in length, not including the spur, and ranges in color from yellow-orange to apricot.

You can learn even more about this species (including a detailed discussion of their pollination mechanism) by following the link below:

>> The Orange Fringed Orchid Information Page <<
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