Monday, August 15, 2011

A Marvel of Miniaturization - Dendrophylax porrectus

Here in central Florida, the diminutive leafless orchid, Dendrophylax porrectus (known commonly as the Jingle Bell Orchid or Needleroot Orchid), begins its blooming. Known previously as Harrisella porrecta, this species was reassigned to Dendrophylax following a molecular genetic study that placed it squarely within that genus. It does seem to defy logic, though, that this species with one of the smallest orchid flowers in Florida is closely akin to one of the largest-flowered species in our state--the ghost orchid.

These flowers really are remarkable in how they replicate the orchid flower structure in such a small package of just a few thousand cells (you can see the individual plant cells in the upper of the two images above), as opposed to the millions of cells that comprise larger orchid flowers. Amazingly enough, these miniscule marvels produce a potent night fragrance, not unlike baby powder mixed with a bit of a grassy undernote.

This species is an inhabitant of small twigs of cypress, eastern red cedar, pop ash, pond apple, and occasional old citrus groves. After flowering, the seed pods expand to become one of the most conspicuous aspects of this plant, turning a deep brownish orange prior to dehiscing. But even with all these hints, they will still be notoriously hard to find.

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 <<<
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