Showing posts with label Jingle Bell Orchid (Harrisella porrecta). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jingle Bell Orchid (Harrisella porrecta). Show all posts

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Marvel of Miniaturization - Dendrophylax porrectus

Here in central Florida, the diminutive leafless orchid, Dendrophylax porrectus (known commonly as the Jingle Bell Orchid or Needleroot Orchid), begins its blooming. Known previously as Harrisella porrecta, this species was reassigned to Dendrophylax following a molecular genetic study that placed it squarely within that genus. It does seem to defy logic, though, that this species with one of the smallest orchid flowers in Florida is closely akin to one of the largest-flowered species in our state--the ghost orchid.

These flowers really are remarkable in how they replicate the orchid flower structure in such a small package of just a few thousand cells (you can see the individual plant cells in the upper of the two images above), as opposed to the millions of cells that comprise larger orchid flowers. Amazingly enough, these miniscule marvels produce a potent night fragrance, not unlike baby powder mixed with a bit of a grassy undernote.

This species is an inhabitant of small twigs of cypress, eastern red cedar, pop ash, pond apple, and occasional old citrus groves. After flowering, the seed pods expand to become one of the most conspicuous aspects of this plant, turning a deep brownish orange prior to dehiscing. But even with all these hints, they will still be notoriously hard to find.

You can read more about this species on its profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids site:

>>> Click to View Dendrophylax porrectus profile page <<<

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Florida's Oft-overlooked Ghost Orchid-- Dendrophylax porrectus

We are now entering the blooming season for Florida's enigmatic 'Little Ghost Orchid' (not its actual common name - Jingle Bell Orchid or Needleroot Orchid are the most often used names). It was originally discovered in Florida growing in a citrus grove near Oneco, FL, then having the name Aeranthus porrectus. It has since bounced around between several genera and species - Harrisella porrecta, Campylocentrum porrectum, Campylocentrum filiforme, to finally land in the genus Dendrophylax (as Dendrophylax porrectus) , the same genus as its more famous cousin, the Ghost Orchid. While the Ghost Orchid has large, showy flowers, Dendrophylax porrectus has tiny, inconspicuous flowers barely bigger than a pinhead growing on a plant that is easily overlooked, being just a bundle of untidy roots. It is most likely the most common epiphytic orchid in Florida, but is very rarely it a state protected status of Threatened. While the range of other epiphytic orchids has decreased due to freezes in the 70s and 80s, folks continue to find new northern populations, gradually extending its known range northward. While it used to be found commonly in citrus groves, the use of herbicides to control ball mosses, wild pines and other air plants of the genus Tillandsia has made it unlikely to find them in this habitat anymore.

Its seed pods are probably the most conspicuous aspect of this plant, fairly large and turning a bright brown-orange just prior to dehiscing.

The most common host trees for this orchid are Eastern Red Cedar, Pop Ash, Bald Cypress, and Pond Apple. They are most commonly found on small twigs an inch or less in diameter, especially in the crooks between branches, but I have seen plants growing on larger branches and, even in one case, on a fairly large tree trunk. The typical habitat for these will be near a swampy area where other more moisture-loving epiphytes are growing - Encyclia tampensis, Epidendrum magnoliae, Tillandsia setacea, Tillandsia bartramii, Tillandsia utriculata, Tillandsia balbisiana, Tillandsia variabilis, Tillandsia fasciculata, Tillandsia paucifolia (bulbosa), Tillandsia simulata. Look up at the undersides of branches for slender, silvery orchid roots that don't connect to anything resembling a plant. If you're lucky, you'll see the tiny green flowers that are a marvel of miniaturization nestled amongst split seed pods that look very much like little brown bells.

It blooms from August in central Florida into November in the southern counties. Click the link below to see more photographs and read more about this intriguing miniature orchid:

>> Dendrophylax porrectus (Harrisella porrecta) Information Page at Florida Native Orchids <<

Friday, December 26, 2008

Baby Orchid (Dendrophylax porrectus/Harrisella porrecta)

While out hiking Flagler trail (which inspired the poem below 'Among Giants'), I approached a tree a bit off the main trail in the hunt for Jingle Bell Orchids (Dendrophylax porrectus - aka Harrisella porrecta). As I scanned the branches, I noticed a familiar sight...a number of small green shield-like leaves--each only 1-2 mm long--with emerging roots. I had found a number of newly germinated seedlings. This is the only leaf that the plant will have, as it rapidly grows into one of Florida's "leafless" orchids, bearing only small, scale-like leaf sheaths shielding a very abbreviated stem. The roots and flower spikes emerge directly from this stem and perform all the photosynthesis for this plant. Curiously, I found the seedlings before I found the "mama" plant on a nearby twig.

Here is a photo of one of the seedlings:

And here is a photo of what a "mama plant" looks like at this time of year:

And here is a photo of a plant in bloom back in September of last year:

The flowers are tiny, only about 3 mm across. Interestingly enough, they are strongly fragrant at night like many other angraecoids.

You can read more about this species on its profile page on the Florida Native and Naturalized Orchids site:

>>> Click to View Dendrophylax porrectus profile page <<<

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