Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Helping Victims of Sex Trafficking: The Porch Light and the #ShineALight Challenge

One cause that our family has become keenly aware of, and far more concerning than the loss of our natural ecosystems harboring native plants and animals, is the issue of human trafficking. Before not too long ago, we were not aware how prevalent this issue is, especially in central and southern Florida, which are major hubs for human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. This is not a problem that occurs in faraway places like Thailand and Guyana, but one that occurs here in the United States. According to HumanTrafficking.org, "It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually."

The Porch Light (click to visit their website) is a ministry founded by the Florida Baptist Children's Homes to provide a safe haven for child victims of domestic sex trafficking here in central Florida. Quoting from their website:

Even at this moment, there is a young girl falling victim to the dark world of sex trade.

A predator is gaining her trust, maybe a “friend” she met online. Every year, there are as many as 300,000 children like her in the U.S. who are at risk of being sexually exploited. Many of these girls are being prostituted and face the threat of rape, STDs and even death. The Porch Light is helping these girls begin a new life. We are also working to prevent more innocent children from becoming victims while predators financially profit.

It’s simple, really. Our light will shine until every young girl who has been victimized by sex trafficking is rescued, restored and set free. Similar to parents who leave the porch light on waiting for their daughter to return, our faith-based program symbolizes the love of Christ – a light that shines so bright and a love and peace that transforms lives.

Now, lives are changing because of The Porch Light. Girls stay in the safe home for 9-12 months, depending on individual and specific needs. The safe home is at an undisclosed location for the protection and security of the victims and is staffed by a director, mental health counselor and female caregivers. Each girl has her own bedroom and bathroom within a residential suite.

In addition to providing necessary care to victims, The Porch Light also includes sex trafficking prevention and advocacy efforts. The Porch Light representatives partner with law enforcement to educate in schools, churches and community groups to prevent more girls from becoming victims of the growing sex trade.

I was made aware of The Porch Light by a post that former FSU (my alma mater) head coach Bobby Bowden had posted to Facebook, asking folks to consider donating to this worthy cause. I had noticed listed on their web site that one of the practical needs of the girls was nicely furnished rooms, including wall decor.

It just so happened that we had a number of our native orchid canvas prints left over from the last show. My wife, Joy, got in touch with Lynn Barna, administrative assistant at the Porch Light, with the intent to donate these canvases. They were more than grateful to receive our gift--it warms my heart to know that my photos might in some small way make a girl's room feel a little more like home as she recovers from the awful abuse of sexual exploitation.

Lynn Barna, Joy, and myself and one of the canvases we are donating to The Porch Light.

Now I would like to challenge you to Shine a Light on the darkness of child sexual exploitation. Follow this link: https://theporchlight.org/shine-a-light-challenge and consider how you can give (even a small gift of $5) to the cause of helping young victims of sexual exploitation in their process of recovery.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wall Calendars! or Christmas and Other Holiday Gift Ideas Featuring Florida's Orchids - Part 2

Wall calendars are always a great way to share beautiful photographs of Florida's wild orchids with loved ones.  Proceeds go to helping our continued efforts to keep up our educational websites and add additional material, taken from numerous field trips per year to observe and photograph orchids in the wild all over the state of Florida.  This effort is entirely funded from our pockets and from proceeds from merchandise sales and speaker fees when giving presentations at orchid societies, etc.  Our websites are free to use and continue to be a source of education and advocacy for our native orchids.  I regularly receive e-mails from folks who find orchids in the wild and request identification. We also regularly donate photos for use in educational displays, orchid society newsletters, and educational websites.

So far, we have never had any advertising on our blog or website, and that is what we continue to hope to do into the future.

We have four different calendars to choose from this year. Clicking an image below will take you to the on-line store where those calendars are available. Each calendar is $19.99 plus applicable taxes and shipping.

First up, we have our most popular calendar to date, the Florida's Endangered Orchids calendar, featuring 12 photographs of orchids from Florida's endangered orchid list, including the rare, elusive and famous Ghost Orchid.

Next, we have our highly prized "Orchids of Peninsular Florida" calendar, featuring native and naturalized species found growing in the central to southern portions of our state.

Next, we have our original and very popular calendar, updated for 2016 - Florida's Native Orchids, featuring many orchids photographed in northern Florida.

Finally, we have our second ever calendar release, Florida's Wild Orchids, also updated for 2016. This calendar features twelve new photos of orchid species ranging throughout the state, including one naturalized species, the Soldier or Lawn Orchid.

We wish you a joyous Advent season from Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Christmas and Other Holiday Gift Ideas Featuring Florida's Orchids - Part 1

The Holiday season is upon us, and while you could purchase all sorts of things for your loved ones from Ugly Christmas Ties to a Shark Laser Pointer, you can better show your loved ones you care about them (and the environment) by purchasing products featuring Florida's lovely native orchids. Proceeds from the sale of these products go toward orchid and native plant conservation efforts, as well as upkeep on our myriad websites educating folks on our natural treasures here in Florida.

These products are assembled here in America through our product distributor, Cafe Press.

So, for the next few posts over the next few days, we will be featuring gift ideas that we have put together featuring my award-winning photography of Florida's native and naturalized orchids.

First up, we have a number of products that we have commissioned featuring Florida's iconic orchid, the Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis).  It is one of the most commonly seen orchids from central to southern Florida, growing happily on various hardwoods, conifers, and even the occasional palm tree.

Click on the picture below to visit our Cafe Press shop featuring all sorts of products (t-shirts, pajamas, sweatshirts, hoodies, calendars, bumper stickers, gift cards, etc) graced with one of our most lovely orchid species:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Compendium of American Orchids

FTD has put together an awesome graphic showing a number of orchid genera and how they are related to each other.  As you may know, the Orchid Family (Orchidaceae) is the largest plant family, consisting of some 25,000 different species.  The orchids are also incredibly diverse in size, shape, color, etc., with flowers ranging from microscopic to the size of dinner plates.

Within this very large group of plants, we find a number of Subfamilies, Tribes and Subtribes, that link together plants with similar characteristics--both plant and flower structure.  

This can be quite confusing to many, so the graphic FTD has produced really helps to visualized the linkages between these different types of orchids.  Here it is, in all its glory:

Produced by FTD.com.

A Compendium of American Orchids

Be sure to click on the image to visit the FTD blog site.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Winners of the 2015 Florida Wildflower Photography Contest Announced

The winners of this year's Florida Wildflower Photography Contest have been announced, and one of my photos took Honorable Mention (effectively third place).  

Here is my award-winning photo:

Thank you to everyone for voting for this photo during the public vote phase of the contest.  Here is the link to see all the winners:

Florida Wildflower Photography Contest 2015 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Recent Speaking Engagement - Volusia County Orchid Society

I recently spoke at the Volusia County Orchid Society on August 19th, 2015.  Thank you so much to the society for hosting me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Recent Speaking Engagement - Treasure Coast Orchid Society, Vero Beach, FL

I spoke on Tuesday, August 4 at 7PM, at the Treasure Coast Orchid Society in Vero Beach, FL, giving my new, highly acclaimed presentation on Florida's Endangered Orchids - a survey of some of our rarer orchids, their habits, habitat, and current status. The society's web site can be found here:


The address for the meeting was:

Indian River Garden Center, 2526 17th Avenue, Vero Beach, Fl 32960

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Orange Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) in Bloom

Here is a video I shot recently in north-central Florida showing the Orange (Yellow) Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) in full bloom.  It is the first of 16 videos I have on my channel depicting our native orchids.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recent Speaking Engagement - Martin County Orchid Society on July 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM

I recently gave my new presentation "Florida's Endangered Orchids" at this society meeting--a discussion of some of Florida's rarest orchids: their habitat, their present status, and what is being done to protect them.

The presentation was very well received.

Recent Speaking Engagement - Gulf Coast Orchid Alliance, Naples, FL on July 16, 2015 at 6:30 PM

I gave my new presentation "Florida's Endangered Orchids", a discussion of some of Florida's rarest orchids: their habitat, their present status, and what is being done to protect them at this society meeting recently.

It was very well received, with compliments such as "this was the best presentation I have seen in two years of being here".

Monday, May 25, 2015

Report from the Field: The Green Scarlet Ladies' Tresses

EDIT:In the intervening time since this was posted last year, we created a video showing this form and the typical form in flower in Florida. You can view that here:

I was first introduced to Scarlet Ladies' Tresses (Sacoila lanceolata) through Carl Luer's epic work, The Native Orchids of Florida, when I was a teenager.  This species was known then as Spiranthes lanceolata with three variants - var. lanceolata (typical variety), var. paludicola (Fakahatchee variety), and var. luteoalba (the green, albino, variety).  I had wanted to see these in person for many years, but never managed to be in the central Florida area, where they grow most abundantly, during flowering.

As an adult, I became acquainted with an individual who had a number of cultivated plants of this species in his greenhouse and he sent me a plant, which flowered a few years later, finally acquainting me personally with these beautiful flowers.

Fast-forward to a few years later when we made a visit to the Redland Orchid Festival.  On the drive down, we spotted colonies of this plant growing along the Florida Turnpike--my first introduction to wild plants of this species.  Even driving along at full speed, these plants were obvious enough to allow us to slow down and stop safely to observe them.

I was introduced to the Fakahatchee variety on a trip to the Corkscrew Swamp in March.  Sadly, they were almost bloomed out, so they were not worth photographing.

This left var. luteoalba, the green form, now demoted to a form of the typical variety as S. lanceolata var. lanceolata fma. albidaviridis, as the only variety I had not seen. Searching for this plant, I visited many large colonies of the typical variety, hoping to find a few stray green plants, to no avail.  Sometimes the green form would turn up in image sets of other Florida nature photographers, but their locations were kept a closely guarded secret.

Finally, this year, one of my Facebook friends, Jake Antonio Heaton, posted some pictures of the green variety and was willing to divulge the secret location of these plants.

I drove down to the location the next morning.

Interestingly enough, their location was not in some secretive meadow, but right along a quite busy highway, clustered in with red forms of the species.  While the red form is shockingly conspicuous, the green form is just the opposite, blending in quite well with the surrounding grasses.  True to Luer's description of this form, the plants all seemed to be in full bloom, while most of the red form plants nearby were still a week away from flowering. Further down the road, however, I did encounter large blooming clusters of the red form.

Here is a typical mixed colony of plants, red and green forms.  Note how the green forms are almost invisible:

Here is a pair of flowering plants blooming closely together:

Here is single plant in flower:

Here is the same plant isolated with a black backdrop:

Here is a very tall plant, with roughly twice the flower count of a typical plant of the species:

All told, I saw 19 green form plants and about as many red form plants at this colony.

Driving east from this location, I found many large colonies of the typical form of the species, but there were no green form plants among these colonies.  I eventually had to turn around and head back westward to drive home.  Just about a mile to the east of the initial colony of green plants, I found another cluster of green plants along with a few red ones.  Scanning the other side of the road, I found many flower spikes of the standard form still in high bud.

So, finally, after many years of searching, I have managed to see and photograph the green form of this species in the wild.  Many thanks to Jake Antonio Heaton for sharing this location with me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Florida Wild Orchid / Wildflower Walk!

On June 6, we hosted a wild orchid / wildflower walk in the east Orlando area (Ft. Christmas Park and Orlando Wetlands Park).  16 People attended, and we had a great time seeing Florida Butterfly Orchids, Grass Pink Orchids, and Water Spider Orchids all in flower.  In addition, we saw plants of the Greenfly Orchid and Jingle Bell Orchid (these should be blooming in August).  In addition, we saw many other wildflowers, a hummingbird visiting some Tillandsia flowers high in a tree, and a Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake.

Much fun was had by all! 

We will try to do this again in 2016 in the first week of June.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sometimes Lightning Strikes Twice (or, In This Case, Three Times)

Just a few weeks after finding the previous white Grass Pink, I revisited the location of a previously known white-flowered plant, to find a perfect threesome of pure-white flowers! Well, pure white except for the orange-yellow color in the hair bristles.

I was particularly happy that the positioning of the flowers allowed the focal plane to neatly bisect all three bristles of hairs, allowing each to be in sharp focus. A pretty rare shot, indeed!

For a refresher on how Grass Pinks are pollinated, which is quite fascinating in its own right, watch the video below:


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

White Grass Pink! or Calopogon tuberosus fma. albiflorus

For the fourth time, recently, in my 30+ years of observing Florida native orchids in the wild, I have come across the albus (white) form of the Grass Pink Orchid (Calopogon tuberosus). Photos taken with natural light and an off-shoe camera flash unit. Enjoy this rare sight that few naturalists have ever seen.

First, the flower, taken with natural light (very late afternoon).

Next, taken with an off-shoe flash, allowing a faster shutter speed and a lower aperture for more depth of field.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Scarlet Ladies' Tresses Orchids Blooming in Central Florida

I have posted a new video to the Florida Native Orchids Youtube channel showing the lovely Scarlet Ladies' Tresses Orchids (Sacoila lanceolata) in flower in a sunny meadow.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Recent Speaking Engagement - Long Island Orchid Society, NY

Many thanks go to the Long Island Orchid Society for hosting me on Thursday, April 9th.  Here is a link to their website:


This was an historic occasion, as it was my first Florida native orchid themed presentation given outside of the state of Florida.  Previously, I have lectured many dozens of times at orchid societies, native plant societies, garden clubs, and symposiums, discussing our rare and unique orchid heritage.  Afterward, members of the society stated:

Thank you Prem. It was our pleasure to host you and I think you finally brought some warm weather to NY. You gave our group a very informative well organized talk packed with information and the hour just flew by. 

Highly recommended speaker!"

Florida is home to many rare and beautiful orchids, as well as some that are not as rare (but just as beautiful and interesting).  While the semi-tropical central and southern regions of the state boast the greatest orchid diversity in the entire US (with many of these species found nowhere else in the continental US), Florida also has species that range well outside the state.

This presentation was a combination of the best and most interesting orchids from two of my talks, representing both orchids shared across our borders with the rest of the US and orchids found only within Florida, including such luminaries as the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii).

It is a combination of scientific information, beautiful photographs, and anecdotes from many hundreds of hours in the field hunting, observing, and photographing our orchid wonders.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Previous Appearance - Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival, DeLand, FL

I spoke recently on Florida's native orchids at the Florida Wildflower and Garden Festival on West Indiana Avenue in historic downtown DeLand, Florida.  Thank you to everyone who dropped by our booth and attended the talk, showing your support for our efforts in educating the public about Florida's native orchids.

My talk was at 2PM in the Athens Theatre in the heart of the festival.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our YouTube Channel is Open for Your Viewing Pleasure

While I primarily shoot still photographs while out in the field, I have been dabbling with shooting short videos of various species of orchids and their habitats and cobbling them together into something that is hopefully interesting and entertaining.  These are all assembled into our YouTube channel, which you can visit by clicking the link below:

Click to Visit Our YouTube Channel
Click to Visit Our YouTube Channel
 I have also created a widget in the top right corner of this blog linking to the most recent videos in the channel.
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