the natives (orchids) are restless

The natives are restless and looking for sex...
The native orchids in Florida tend to bloom in two main clusters, spring and fall, with a few blooming in summertime and a few in winter in deepest southern Florida. Here at the end of August and the beginning of September, Epidendrum magnoliae may still throw a spike or two, although its main blooming was in early summertimem and Encyclia tampensis may still have a straggling spike at this time of year, although its chief blooming time was in early-mid June.
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/epidendrum_magnoliae02.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/encyclia_tampensis02.jpg
but the main thrust of the summer-fall blooming is in the wetlands. Many species of Habenaria and the related Platanthera put forth their blooms, making for some of the showiest displays of any of the terrestrial orchids.
But first, let's take a look at one of the less showy (and perhaps even weedy) of the Habenarias, H. repens, aka the Water Spider Orchid. It is one of the few Florida orchids that could truly be considered aquatic, often growing in standing water, and sometimes even growing in mats of floating vegetation. The flowers are about a half inch (1.25 cm) across. At first blush, the structure of these flowers may be difficult to decipher, seeming to be composed of eight floral parts. In actuality, it is just the normal six parts. The dorsal and two lateral sepals form a hood and wings, respectively and the tri-lobed lip hangs downward. What is interesting about this flower (and somewhat unusual for the orchid world) is that the petals are deeply bilobed--one lobe wraps around the edge of the sepaline hood while the other lobe juts out into the air. The inconspicuous flowers become powerfully and sweetly fragrant at night, belying their true pollinator--a night-flying moth. These orchids produce numerous offshoots via stolons as well as growing from seed, allowing them to multiply rapidly in a suitable habitat.
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/habenaria_repens_spike.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/habenaria_repens_closeup.jpg
We turn our attention next to the moist pinelands, savannahs, and roadsides. It is here that two of the smaller of the Platantheras grow. Platanthera cristata, or the crested fringed orchid, is not a very big plant, having a raceme of flowers usually only 2-4 inches tall on a plant that might stand up to 30 inches tall, but it's usually a lot shorter, probably around 12 inches in height. Platanthera integra, or the orange fringeless orchid, is about the same size as P. cristata, but has a more compact raceme and, true to its name, no fringe on the lip. Both species have flowers that are usually a bright yellowish-orange in color:
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_cristata.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_integra_01.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_integra_02.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_integra_small_spike.jpg
We now progress in size to Platanthera chapmanii (also known as P. x chapmanii, a natural hybrid designation), which is intermediate in size between P. cristata and the largest of the fringe orchids, P. ciliaris. In fact, it is considered by many to be a natural hybrid or otherwise intergrade between the two species. It, however, maintains stable populations in places where both parents are absent and is elevated in some works to be a species in its own right. The flower is intermediate in size between the half-inch of P. cristata and the 1-plus inch of P. ciliaris. The petals are small, staying sheltered under the dorsal sepalline hood. The deeply fringed lip protrudes below, its back end forming into a long spur (evidently to force butterflies to probe deeply and stick their faces right into the waiting column):
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_chapmanii_0804.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_chapmanii_0804_closeup.jpg
Our final orchids are the giants of the bog. The white fringed orchid, Platanthera conspicua (aka P. blephariglottis v. conspicua), raises its head of white flowers as high as three feet off the bog soil, but usually about half that height. The lip of the flower is around an inch long, giving the flower a vertical span of nearly 1.5 inches. The flower structure is similar to P. cristata and P. chapmanii, although on a larger (and whiter) scale:
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_conspicua_spike01.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_conspicua_closeup01.jpg
Our final bog orchid, Platanthera ciliaris, is the true giant of the bog, with flowers just a touch larger than its cousin, P. conspicua/blephariglottis. The flower head itself can be up to 8 inches tall and carry up to 60 buds and flowers. It's usually a bit smaller than that, but when one sees an impressive specimen at near its full height, the experience cannot be forgotten:
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_ciliaris_full_spike.jpg
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/platanthera_ciliaris_closeup.jpg
More native orchid images can be seen on my orchid gallery:
http://www.premdesign.com/orchidpics/orchidpicshq.htm
---Prem
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Prem,
Excellent mini-article!
I wish I had the space to effectively accomplish the same lighting effects as you do, or I would seriously be moving from Kodachrome 64 and Provia 100 over to digital of some higher-quality kind in an accelerated fashion.
You should write something longer and submit it to your local friendly orchid publication, preferrably one with a national/international reach. *smile*
-Eric in SF www.orchidphotos.org

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Those are great shots. I've forwarded your site to a orchid loving friend. Cheryl
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Prem,
Very interesting! Thank you for the show & tell. I had not realized that such orchids were native to Florida. I guess I will have to come down there someday.
Joanna

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A superb job Prem, also your website is tremendous! I love the animated Encyclia tampensis with the butterfly? NB...Did you get my private email?
--
Cheers Wendy

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