Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Rarely Seen Florida Beauty - the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Years ago, when Carl Luer published his masterwork, The Native Orchids of Florida, the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) had been hinted at as growing in Florida, but had not been officially recorded.  It was listed in a section in his book of orchids that might one day be found growing wild in Florida.

Fast forward to 1983 where a pair of naturalists discovered a population on one of the many hills near the Apalachicola River.  As is seen elsewhere in north Florida, riverine systems are a means of many northern species making tentative forays into north Florida.  The climate is often just a bit cooler, giving plants a place to establish tenuous outlying colonies.

I have not yet had the privilege of seeing the Florida population, but I had encountered a population of these orchids while photographing Pink Ladyslippers near the Atlanta, Georgia area.  I hope one day to see the Floridian plants, if the colony still exists.  A lot can happen in 30 years.

The plants consist of a basal rosette of beautifully patterned leaves -- deep blue-green with silvery veins.  The hairy flower stem emerges in spring to bloom in mid-late summer with small, roundish flowers with green-striped sepals and deeply pouched lips.

Here are some photos of this species:

And here is the profile page on the Florida Native Orchids site: 
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