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.
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
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.
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
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):
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:
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:
More native orchid images can be seen on my orchid gallery: