Monday, November 29, 2010

A Monumental Event

Well, at least for me, it is. All the gallery pages on the Florida Native Orchids Website have now been converted over to the new database-driven gallery format. This will allow, over the upcoming months, to enhance the gallery and search functionality of the site. The latest pages to be updated are the following:

Bearded Grass Pink (Calopogon barbatus)

Pale Grass Pink (Calopogon pallidus)

Large Whorled Pogonia (Isotria verticillata)

Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor)

Spring Coralroot (Corallorhiza wisteriana)

Scarlet Ladies' Tresses

Spring Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes vernalis)

Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trail Tales (or Stuff I've Seen While Hunting For Orchids), Part 4

On the day when a colleague, Rich Leighton, and I went to photograph the White Fringed Orchid, he mentioned that there was a scenic waterfall at a local park not too far away, Falling Creek Falls Park, north of Lake City. Since we had a few hours of sunlight left, I was game to check it out...waterfalls are as rare as hen's teeth in Florida.

It's a very nice, small park maintained by the Suwannee Water Management District. Falling Creek is itself a small tributary of the Suwannee River. Here is a page with info on the park:

>>> Falling Creek Falls Park <<<

The waterfall itself plunges over a limestone ledge 10 feet or so into the pool below. The strength of the waterfall is intimately tied to water levels...during the dry season, it's barely a trickle, while during the wet season, you can hear the falls a good bit before you see them.

Click the picture below for an expanded view:

This is a typical 'blackwater creek', colored by tannic acid released by decaying vegetation along the creek's route. Tannic acid is the same ingredient that gives a nice glass of southern sweetened iced tea its brownish color. This also gives the falls a distinctively tan-brown color.

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.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Now Playing In a Swamp Near You and Bewitched, Part III

Now to bring the topic back to orchids (since, after all, this is an orchid-related blog). Late fall in north and central Florida usually does not have much to offer orchid-wise...most terrestrials are wrapping up for the year, storing whatever they can in their underground portions prior to the first below-freezing night, which usually does the above-ground parts in. Starting in October in northern Florida, and wrapping up in December in southern Florida, two common woodland species come into their own during this sparse time--Spiranthes odorata and Ponthieva racemosa, known by their common names as Fragrant Ladies' Tresses and the Shadow Witch Orchid. You can see some earlier posts of Shadow Witch flowers and plants to this blog under the titles Bewitched, Part I and Bewitched, Part II. Both are members of the subfamily Spiranthoideae and tribe Cranichideae, but the former is classified in subtribe Spiranthinae and the latter in subtribe Cranichidinae. Both have evergreen basal rosettes of leaves and grow in rather swampy areas and both reproduce vegetatively via runners, as well as sexually via flowers and seeds. Because of their vegetative reproductive habit, both can tend to form extensive colonies over time, although I have observed S. odorata as being a bit more aggressive in colony forming than P. racemosa Both species are pleasantly fragrant, with P. racemosa smelling faintly of citrus while S. odorata smells most strongly of vanilla scented baby powder.

Three of my children and I visited a well-known site for these species...this same general area is home to Malaxis spicata, Platythelys querceticola, Listera australis, and Corallorhiza wisteriana as well. I would not be surprised if Epidendrum magnoliae were found growing in the trees overhead. Here are some photographs taken of these two species:

Spiranthes odorata - three blooming plants

Spiranthes odorata - single inflorescence

Spiranthes odorata - flower closeup

Ponthieva racemosa - flower spike

Ponthieva racemosa - top-down view

Ponthieva racemosa - top-down view

Ponthieva racemosa - Semi top-down view

Ponthieva racemosa - flower closeup
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