Orchid Outing

Florida butterfly orchids (Encyclia tampensis) are easy to overlook. They are not the large gaudy orchids of prom corsages of bygone days.

We saw lots of Florida butterfly orchids at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area when we visited on 6-18-2022 growing on the large live oaks (Quercus virnginiana) that grace the sliver of oak hammock along Oslo Road. Blooming was somewhat later than usual this year, perhaps due to prolonged dry conditions.

Florida butterfly orchids are epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants without doing harm. They often grow in the midst of other epiphytes like Spanish moss (Tillandsia usenodies) shown above.

Spikes (panicles or racemes) of flowers sally forth from the grass-like strappy green foliage. The flowers will be followed by pods that release scads of tiny, tiny black seeds.

The quarter-sized flowers have 5 petals (tepals) and a white lip (labellum) marked by purple, providing a veritable “landing strip” for pollinators. The petals vary in color from reddish to greenish to brownish. The flowers release a honey-like fragrance around mid-day to help attract pollinators.

Even though we visited around 8:00am, pollinators were present …

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