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 <<


Buford Nature said...

I own some farmland in Suwannee County that was originally xeric sandhill habitat dominated by longleaf pine, xeric oaks and wiregrass. It went thru a series of crops over the years before me - peanuts, pasture, planted slash pine. Under my ownership it went from pioneer laurel oaks to cleared field to longleaf pine. During my tenure, P. ecristata went from an occasional plant to a low population to a full-blown explosion of hundreds of plants within a 12-acre area. I have not seen it since.

Prem said...

P. ecristata is known to go dormant for a few years at a time, so your population may be 'in hiding', waiting for some environmental cue - good rainfall, adequate temperatures at the right time, etc. to grow out again. They are also much harder to spot when just plants as opposed to leaves, since they bear such a strong resemblance to palmetto seedlings. Here's hoping your population re-emerges in the upcoming years.

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