Sunday, July 31, 2011

Out of Africa - a Mystery

It is fairly clear where the African Spotted Orchid, Oeceoclades maculata (pronounced Ee-see-oh-klad-eez mack-you-lat-ah), originated. What is less clear is how it got here in the state of Florida. This is one of our most frequently encountered naturalized orchids, second to the Lawn Orchid (Zeuxine strateumatica), making its home equally well in the edges of moist swamps and under our landscaping. Its habitat seems to be expanding rapidly from southern Florida into central Florida and perhaps beyond.

Read more about this mysterious visitor from far away lands on the Florida Native Orchids website:

>>> Oeceoclades maculata profile page <<<

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coalition for Orchid Species Symposium, recap

This past Sunday, I spoke at the Coalition for Orchid Species symposium at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, FL. This is a truly great event, and well worth it if you can attend next year. We had five speakers, including myself, covering topics as diverse as bifoliate Cattleyas, Catasetinae, Phalaenopsis species, Dendrobiums, and, of course, Florida's wild orchids. All of the vendors had plants for sale, and Greg Allikas and myself sold prints of our photographs. In addition, I had greeting cards and t-shirts featuring various of our native orchids, which sold very well. My sales were quite good, but the plant vendors literally had stuff flying off the tables...this is a good program for both speakers and attendees alike. Below is a snapshot of our sales table. I am hoping to use this new display to visit various orchid shows in the central to south-central Florida region.

The other speakers at this symposium were excellent. Peter Lin began with his presentation on Phalaenopsis species. You can tell that he loves his plants like a doting father. Greg Allikas then did his informative talk on bifoliate Cattleyas, elucidating the differences between four different pairs of often confused species. This was accompanied, of course, with his gorgeous photography that I have often considered an inspiration for my own.

I was the third speaker, giving my presentation on native orchids: Orchids in Our Backyard - Florida's Wild Orchids. Pressed for time, I had time to show only photographs of four species toward the end of the presentation to spend the last few remaining minutes discussing the ghost orchid. If you saw the presentation at the symposium and you want to hear the full presentation on those species we glossed over, be sure to invite me to your society and you'll get the whole presentation.

Roy Tokunaga gave his presentation on Dendrobiums, which was quite informative, as well as lovely to view. One of the big take-away pieces of information from his talk was that a fertilizer with a good dose of calcium (or calciferous water) and magnesium is important for adequate blooming, not only of Dendrobium, but other orchids as well. Finally, Fred Clarke gave a presentation on various species of Catasetinae - Catasetum, Mormodes, and Cycnoches. These are some of the most mechanically complex, bizarre, and interesting orchid species...a group that I have had a high degree of interest in for a long time.

The food was delicious and well worth the price of admission all by itself. Below is my eldest daughter, Ariel, manning the sales table at the symposium. By the way, I hope Roy and Peter wear their t-shirts often and show off the lovely orchids that Florida has to offer.

On the way back home to Orlando, we decided to take the 'scenic route' across Alligator Alley through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. Little did we know that the tensioner pully for our van was on the verge of breaking, taking out our serpentine belt and a few hoses with it on the last few western miles of AA. Well, alas, there went all the proceeds from the show and then some to get the van fixed. I guess you win some, you lose some...usually not on the same day, though.

This story does have a happier ending...covered in the blog post below.

Ghost Whispering

With our large van out of commission on the south side of Naples, FL after leaving the COS symposium, we were able to convince my eldest son, Josh, to come pick us up. This made for a rather harrowing early morning ride back to Orlando with two rather tired drivers (Josh and myself) taking tandem shifts to get us back. The van still in Naples, we had it towed to a nearby shop where they proceeded to repair it in our absence.

This, of course, meant that we had to go retrieve it once it had been fixed. So, Josh, Timothy (my 2nd oldest son) and I made the trip back down to Naples yesterday. Since we were already so close to the Fakahatchee Strand, Tim and I decided to press on to the swamp while Josh headed back to finish studying for finals coming up. I probably would get an award for evil dad of the day trying to convince Josh to postpone his studies and join us in the Fak...alas, he is too diligent of a student!

Now, I knew that this is late in the season to find blooming ghost orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii)...and a check of our usual haunts turned up bloomless plants. I had lost almost all hope when I followed my maps to one final plant seen on several trips before. This is the same plant showing a double bloom on my ghost orchid gallery page.

As I sighted up the trunk of the tree, my eyes were met with one of the last ghost orchid flowers of the season. I pointed this out to Tim, whose audible sigh let me know that he was experiencing that 'first ghost orchid in the wild' feeling. I had experienced this to some extent when seeing the ghost orchid at Corkscrew Swamp, but even moreso when I had seen my first flower only a few feet out of reach in the middle of the deep swamp.

It was a good thing I had my Canon 70-300 mm telephoto lens this day, as about 30 feet of stifling, mosquito-laden air separated me from my prize. We stayed there for roughly an hour, photographing the flower every time the light was good and the breeze was light. Here is a photo from this day...the day Tim whispered a sigh of awe at seeing his first wild ghost.

Coming to a town near you

With the new year, I have resumed giving talks at orchid societies, native plant societies, garden clubs, and the like. I had a great time speaking recently to the Martin County Native Plant Society, the St. Augustine Orchid Society, the Seminole County Native Plant Society, the Jacksonville Native Plant Society, the Marion County Native Plant Society, the Venice Area Orchid Society, the Jupiter-Tequesta Orchid Society, and the Coalition for Orchid Species Symposium, giving my presentation 'Orchids in Our Backyard: Florida's Wild Orchids'. This presentation has been very well received where it has been presented.

I also presented my new presentation
'Orchids in Our Backyard: Florida's Wild Orchids - Part II' at the Tampa Bay Orchid Society and the Central Florida Orchid Society. Featuring a new cast of characters taken from Florida's wild lands, this presentation is also garnering rave reviews.

Check the calendar at the end of this blog page to see when I might be speaking in a town near you.
If you are part of a plant society or garden club and would like me to come speak, I generally like to do one engagement a month, and I still have openings in November through December. Please E-MAIL ME if you are interested.

I'll be at the following places over the coming months:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Butterfly Orchid - a Florida Icon on a Tee

We have just released a new t-shirt featuring Florida's popular and iconic orchid, Encyclia tampensis (common name: Florida Butterfly Orchid). I am wearing this tee-shirt right now, and I must say that it is quite lovely, if I do say so myself. The shirt itself features an entire plant with multiple flowers in the background and a closeup of a single flower in the foreground. It features both the common and scientific names of the plant, so it is both educational and beautiful to look at.

Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) t-shirt

It is available in all sizes from Small to 3XL. Click the following link to go to my Cafe Press store:

Florida Butterfly Orchid Tees at Cafe Press

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