"Surviving Suburban Sprawl
The Orchids of Broward County"
This month's feature article by Chuck McCartney
Next month: "Wildflower Photos of Jonathan Dickinson State Park"
THIS WEDNESDAY'S FEATURED SPEAKER:
Dr. George K. Rogers "Survival Strategies of Native Plants"
...and more below
BROWARD CHAPTER of the Florida Native Plant Society
Promoting the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Broward County
Wednesday, May 11, 7 pm
Secret Woods, 2701 W. State Rd. 84, Dania Beach, FL 33312
Survival Strategies of Native Plants A lot is going on in the wilds of South Florida where the native species live. Complex interactions are active among the plant and animal species there. Plants must also respond to the ever-changing physical environment of sun, climate, and soil within a world of microbial chemistry that sustains and threatens. These external and internal processes of life and death are the subject of George Roger's talk for the Broward Chapter this Wednesday. Dr. Roger's is wonderfully knowledgeable about the workings of native plants. He has been studying, teaching, and looking beneath the surface for decades. Dr. George K. Rogers is Professor and Horticulture Chair at Palm Beach State College. He has written South Florida landscaping books that emphasize native species. He has the best online learning courses we know of. He has a great blog, and a great mix of wonder and humor. Come to the Secret Woods to hear him this Wednesday evening at 7 pm.
Above: "Water droplets catch under the [Spanish Moss and Ball-Moss] scales, and suck into the plant through the central “trunk” of the scale. Some Tillandsia Bromeliads and additional epiphytes offer living quarters for symbiotic ants in swollen puffy plant bases, or various hollow chambers. The ants bring and create soil and manure, and certainly also provide guard duties."
Saturday, May 14, 4:30 pm
RSVP for destination location: Richard@Brownscombe.net or 954-661-6289
Self-guided Landscape Tour & Sundowner
We provide a short self-guided tour map of public landscaping ending at the home of one of our members at about 4:30 pm for a South Florida Sundowner. While there, we will relax, look the yard, and identify the native landscape plants. Check the Coontie Calendar for updates and RSVP to the email or phone above no later than Friday, May 13. Join us as we promote sustainable landscaping and enjoy a delightful evening together. Thur.-Sun., May 19-22
FNPS Daytona Beach Conference 2016
The annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference is in Daytona with field trips on the Thursday before and Sunday after. This conference is for the general public and includes many interesting speakers and events. If you haven't registered, look online for the details.
A Walk in the Fakahatchee
Jack Lange is one of our most experienced South Florida botanists of native species, spending significant time in the wild studying and observing and for his work as an environmental consultant. He has a wonderful quiet personality, so you may not have heard as much about him as some of our well-known botanists. However, those of us who have walked with Jack in the wilds were delighted when he agreed to lead us again. This walk is in the Fakahatchee Strand, a great wild place. If you love seeing plants in the wild, please join us. Jack's walks often require getting wet, climbing through a few things, and going a little deeper into the wilds, so we rate this trip moderate difficulty. We recommend no young children or adults unable to tough it through a few unexpected difficulties. A walking stick for balance in the swamp, drinking water, repellent, sun protection (hat & lotion), a change of clothes, and lunch are all prudent. Don't be scared away. It's a rare chance to taste the heart of the natural world with a wonderful and experienced botanist.
The Fakahatchee Strand is a Preserve and State Park about 1-1/2 hours west of downtown Ft. Lauderdale. Highway 75 is along the northern border and State Road 29 is along the eastern border and it reaches south to Florida Bay comprising about 100 square miles rich in wildlife.
Surviving Suburban Sprawl
The Orchids of Broward County
By Chuck McCartney
Broward County marked its 100th anniversary last year. It was created by the state’s Legislature on April 30, 1915, and was carved mostly from Dade County to the south (now known as Miami-Dade County due to a wave of Chamber of Commerce boosterism in 1997), with a small portion at the northern edge of the county coming from adjacent Palm Beach County. The county seat, Fort Lauderdale, takes its name from a series of temporary military installations erected starting in 1838 during the Second Seminole War, first along the beach and later up the New River, which forms the county’s major watershed. Very little is known of Major William Lauderdale, the Tennessean for whom the forts were named. The city was incorporated in 1911.
The 51st of Florida’s 67 counties, it was named in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward of Jacksonville, who served as governor from 1905 to 1909 and before that led a colorful life worthy of a Hollywood adventure movie script, including a stint as a gun runner illegally shuttling weapons to Cubans fighting for independence from Spain. Governor Broward’s greatest claim to fame is the implementation of the Everglades drainage project, which had great popular support for the then-desired aim of converting all those thousands of acres of “useless” water-logged Everglades marshes into fertile land for farming and real estate development. The project succeeded all too well, and now Floridians and the federal government are spending billions of dollars to try to undo the ecological damage wrought by that scheme.
Broward’s land area totals 1,210 square miles (3,100 square kilometers) running approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) north to south and 50 miles (80 kilometers) east to west, from the Atlantic Ocean to the middle of the Florida Peninsula. The western half of the land mostly comprises what’s left of the original Everglades, much of it included in impoundments called “water conservation areas” administered by the massive bureaucracy of the South Florida Water Management District. A small sliver of the Big Cypress lies at the far-western extreme of the county, much of that portion taken up by reservations of the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes of Native Americans.
The population, estimated at 1.84 million in 2013, is jammed into the approximately 471 square miles (1,220 square kilometers) of the habitable eastern half of the county, which is divided into 31 incorporated municipalities. In that portion, there are so few natural areas left that Broward serves as a model of how not to preserve the environment. The habitable part of the county is nearly “built out,” as they say in real estate parlance. When county voters approved a bond issue a few years ago to purchase more land for parks, real estate developers were buying up the few remaining parcels and destroying the habitat faster than the county could act to acquire the acreage.
And yet . . . somehow orchids have managed to survive among all those people in Broward County’s few remaining enclaves of nature, which include mostly county and city parks and nature preserves and one seaside state park.
As of November 2014, the online Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (www.florida.plantatlas.edu) maintained by the University of South Florida (which is actually at Tampa in Central Florida – the Legislature apparently didn’t have a map when it named the institution) lists 26 species plus two varieties for Broward. These are included based solely on verified voucher specimens maintained in herbaria around the country. Merely anecdotal reports (“I saw such-and-such species at such-and-such a place….”) do not count.
Broward appears not to have been explored well by botanists in the early years, so it seems that much of what might have been found in the area was lost to development early on. Still, there are early records from the county for such orchid species as Calopogon pallidus (collected April 25, 1937, “west of Pompano”); Spiranthes longilabris (collected as “Spiranthes brevifolia” on November 19 and December 31, 1903, at “Fort Lauderdale”); and Spiranthes praecox (collected April 17, 1937, “west of Pompano”).
Then there’s Spiranthes torta. The presence of this species in Broward poses a bit of a problem. The USF’s online Atlas cites a specimen in the New York Botanical Garden’s herbarium as the voucher for this species for the county. However, the only specimen labeled as this species (then called Ibidium tortile) for a site that is now in Broward County was collected by John Kunkel Small of the New York Botanical Garden and his son George. The locality was “near South New River Canal, beyond head of New River.” However, the date of the specimen constitutes the problem: Nov. 11-25, 1913. In its currently known localities in South Florida, Spiranthes torta is a summer bloomer, with the flowering season centered in June. Either the Small specimen was flowering well out of season for the species or the date on the label is incorrect. Current Spiranthes expert Matthew Pace of the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium has examined the specimen and states that it is, indeed, Spiranthes torta.
Sadly, the four preceding species are no longer known to exist in Broward County.
Two other Calopogon species are listed for Broward. It would not be unrealistic to expect the wide-ranging Calopogon tuberosus, or Grass Pink Orchid, to still exist in the county, especially in the far-western area abutting the Big Cypress. The Atlas shows both the typical form of this species as well as the southern Florida var. simpsonii for Broward. I find the latter taxon difficult to distinguish.
A second source, the excellent database maintained by the privately funded Institute for Regional Conservation in southern Miami-Dade County (www.regionalconservation.org), also lists the much rarer Calopogon multiflorus for Broward. This is primarily a pine flatwoods species, but there is almost no viable pineland left in the county, so the hopes of finding this orchid again in Broward are practically nil.
As for the genus Spiranthes, although it’s doubtful that the species already cited exist in the county any longer, two species that are adapted to wetlands still can be found. Mike Middlebrook, formerly a natural resource specialist with the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division, e-mailed a photo of a Spiranthes to me for identification. He had found it in a nature preserve in the southern end of the county. It turned out to be Spiranthes odorata. It’s good to know this species is still found in Broward. This largest of the white-flowered true Spiranthes species is a robust member of the Spiranthes cernua complex. A fall bloomer, it is one of South Florida’s two truly aquatic orchids, often living and flowering in standing water.
The Atlas also lists Spiranthes laciniata for Broward. I have seen and photographed it at the extreme western edge of the county, along State Road 833, the so-called Snake Road (because of its many flat, undulating curves) leading from Interstate 75/Alligator Alley north through the Miccosukee Reservation to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. I collected a voucher specimen (my No. 52) on June 23, 1991, and submitted it to the herbarium at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
That same stretch of roadway in far-western Broward also supports colonies of the earlier-flowering Spiranthes vernalis, a near-twin of Spiranthes laciniata. I took a specimen in flower (my collection No. 89) on March 12, 2000, and submitted it to the herbarium at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Because of the existence of this voucher specimen, it’s not clear why this species is not included for Broward in the Atlas. However, in late 2014, Mike Middlebrook of the county parks division sent a photo of a Spiranthes he tentatively identified as Spiranthes laciniata. The specimen, photographed on April 14, 2014, in a degraded wet prairie near the intersection of two busy roadways in central Broward, was nearing the end of its bloom cycle, and because of that early date, I suspect this specimen represents Spiranthes vernalis instead.
Sacoila lanceolata var paludicola, Scarlet Ladies’-Tresses
Perhaps the most colorful of the tropical terrestrials in Broward is Sacoila lanceolata, a species once included in the older, broader concept of the genus Spiranthes, accounting for it still commonly being called the Scarlet Ladies’-Tresses Orchid in reference it its red flowers. The form that has been known in Broward for many years is what’s called var. paludicola, the less common form of the species (and one that some authorities have even tried to raise to the status of a separate species). The variety name was created by Carlyle A. Luer, MD, author of The Native Orchids of Florida, based on specimens he found in the Fakahatchee Strand of Southwest Florida, with the name deriving from the Latin words meaning “swamp dweller.” That’s a little misleading, though, because it often grows in the shade of mesic (wet) hammocks, as in Broward, where it is known from an oak hammock along the New River and has been found in a grove of the non-native trees erroneously called Australian Pines (Casuarina sp.) in a county park at the edge of what’s left of the Everglades. There is some thought that the plants at the New River site were introduced there artificially, but no one has yet come forward to confess to doing so. This form differs slightly from the nominate (typical) form of this very widespread species, flowering with its rosette of large leaves still intact and producing flowers at slightly more upward-pointing angle that are a startlingly bright color of almost Christmas red.
Interestingly, the nominate form of Sacoila lanceolata has only recently been discovered in Broward, where it grew in the Interstate 75 right of way at a major intersection near the westernmost suburbs. This form has flowers that are a more brick red color, its leaves are usually withered away at anthesis (bloom time), and it seems to prefer open, sunny habitats. It is generally more plentiful north of Lake Okeechobee into Central Florida, where it often can be found flowering in similar roadside habitats. It is unclear how the Broward population got there. There is some speculation that it might have been brought in from elsewhere with rock fill or sod during the road-construction process. The colony was found on June 24, 2014, by Rob Hopper of the South Florida Water Management District, according to David Bogardus of the Florida Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, they grew in an area slated to be excavated and turned into a storm-water retention pond, so, with proper permits, an estimated 60 plants were rescued from the site and relocated to several places in Broward and one in Palm Beach County, with a few plants given to the Broward Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society to grow. Bogardus says all rescued plants are doing well. Both forms of Sacoila lanceolata are so attractive that some effort should be made to cultivate them and make them available to the horticultural community.
Habenaria floribunda, Tooth-Petal Rein Orchid
The genus Habenaria is represented in Broward by two species. Habenaria floribunda was formerly known as Habenaria odontopetala and sometimes is still called the Tooth-Petal Rein Orchid based on that name because of the shape of the lateral petals, which are generally aberrant in the genus. The most common Habenaria in the southern portion of Florida, it is a robust and sometimes quite tall species largely of hammock-type environments that blooms primarily from the autumn into early winter. It is present in a number of Broward’s county and municipal parks. Habenaria repens replaces Habenaria floribunda farther north in the state as the most common Habenaria species. Blooming at various times of the year, it is the state’s other “aquatic orchid,” and this one truly lives up to that designation because it often is found growing in floating mats of vegetation in generally open, swampy environments. With its small green flowers that sometimes look like a nest of spiders that have just hatched out, it is appropriately called the Water Spiders Orchids. Mike Middlebrook of the county’s parks division recently sent me a photo of this species growing in a nature preserve in the southern part of the county, so it’s nice to know it’s still in Broward.
Eulophia alta, Wild Coco
The African-centered genus Eulophia is represented in Broward by the native Eulophia alta, sometimes called Wild Coco because its pretty plicate (pleated) yellow-green leaves look a bit like a young palm seedling. The principal member of this genus in the New World, this species is widespread and adapted to a number of habitats, although it tends to prefer open, sunny areas, even roadsides. It is so adaptable as to habitat that I have even photographed it at a large Broward County park near the edge of the Everglades, where it grew and flowered quite nicely in the thick leaf litter of Australian Pines (Casuarina sp.), a place where few other plants can survive. In the fall and early winter, it produces quite tall inflorescences of pretty 1.5-inch flowers. The species epithet, alta, refers to those lofty flower stalks, which can be over head high under optimum conditions.
Another widespread tropical terrestrial that’s still present in Broward is pretty Bletia purpurea. Its attractive little pink flowers are borne in tall racemes or panicles that emerge from the base of its small Gladiolus-like corms (bulbs) in the late winter into spring. When there are no flowers or old bloom stalks present, the pleated leaves at first glance might be confused with those of Eulophia alta, although they are narrower and greener than the generally yellow-green leaves of the latter. Bletia purpurea is sometimes called the Pine Pink Orchid, alluding to one of the habitats for the species. But it is not that restrictive in where in grows. It also seems quite happy sprouting – sometimes in large groupings -- on rocky roadsides, often in full sun. In the swamps of the Big Cypress, it even grows on logs floating in the swamps or on cypress knees just above the waterline. Because it’s at the northern edge of its range and possibly there are fewer pollinators available, the flower buds often fail to open, instead fertilizing themselves and going directly to seed. The production of these so-called cleistogamous flowers seems to be the species’ short-term – although hardly genetically desirable – strategy for its survival in subtropical South Florida.
Perhaps the least attractive terrestrial orchid native to Broward is Triphora gentianoides, a member of a genus that has several species with small but pretty flowers. It pops up at odd places. I have seen it growing under citrus trees in a neighbor’s backyard in Hollywood, in mulched landscape beds at places like the main Hollywood post office, Hollywood City Hall and the beautiful Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, and even in a disturbed hammock-like natural area in northern Broward. It seems to be strongly dependent on mycorrhizal fungi in its finger-like horizontal underground tuber. This produces a somewhat succulent stem variously colored watery brownish green or purplish that bears small flowers at the top primarily in June and July. These greenish flowers barely open.
Of the tropical epiphytes, pretty Encyclia tampensis, the most common epiphytic orchid in the southern half of Florida, is found at locations throughout Broward. In the northern portion of the county, I have been shown massive colonies of this horticulturally desirable summer-flowering species happily growing and blooming on the vertical trunks of Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto, Florida’s state tree) right beside some of the area’s busiest roadways. In a city park in the middle of Fort Lauderdale, they formerly grew high in trees of South Florida Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), one of the few orchids found growing on the flaky bark of pines in the area.
Prosthechea cochleata, Clamshell Orchid
A surprising orchid found in a swampy area dominated by Pond Apple (Annona glabra) trees near busy Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in the south area of Broward is the well-known Clamshell Orchid, now designated as Prosthechea cochleata. (Take your pick of previous names for this widespread New World orchid: Epidendrum cochleatum, Encyclia cochleata, Anacheiliumcochleatum.) The small population at the site near the airport is the self-pollinating three-anthered mutation known as var. triandra, the only form of this species known to occur in Florida. The reason this orchid is still there may have something to do with the inaccessibility of this site, now owned by the county. Getting to the place where plants grow entails some of the most difficult “swamp tromping” I have ever encountered in my years of searching South Florida’s swamp forests. Years ago, I also saw this species in a hammock at what is now a large county-owned nature preserve in the northeastern part of Broward. Despite its presence in the county, this orchid is not on the official USF Atlas list for Broward.
Epidendrum floridense, Florida Jade Orchid
The location near the Fort Lauderdale airport site and a county park in the northern Broward harbor a surprising species, the orchid long known as Epidendrum difforme and now called Epidendrum floridense due to the splitting of that species complex by Epidendrum expert Eric Hagsater in Mexico. Both sites look very much like the Pond Apple swamps of the Big Cypress in southwestern Florida that somehow got transported to the east coast. In fact, the plants at the northern site represent the most concentrated population of this attractive orchid that I know in the state. Oddly, despite both these populations (especially the north one) having been photographed in flower by a number of competent field botanists, this species is not listed on the Atlas for Broward because apparently no one has bothered to collect a voucher specimen, even though the size of the northern population would allow it. The species’ translucent green flowers, borne in umbel-like clusters in the early autumn, have led me to dub it the Florida Jade Orchid, although it has a couple of less attractive (and less meaningful) “common names” made up by other botanists. The Broward presence of this orchid, known primarily from Southwest Florida, as well as of Prosthechea cochleata, raises a question: Were these plants introduced at these sites by well-meaning orchid enthusiasts years ago? At one time, the scion of a well-known Fort Lauderdale commercial orchid nursery was artificially propagating desirable native orchids, but he has never admitted to scattering these orchids around in the county.
Equally surprising is the reported presence in Broward of Epidendrum anceps (called Epidendrum amphistomum in the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families). There is a voucher specimen for this orchid from the former Florida Atlantic University herbarium, now housed at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The specimen, collected on April 23, 1972, consists of a single sterile growth, plus some flowers contained in an envelope attached to the herbarium sheet. The locality is listed as: “In tree off State Road #84 and University Drive.” This site is now smack in the middle of Broward’s most densely suburbanized area. Again, this is an orchid, like Prosthechea cochleata, more common in the Big Cypress of Southwest Florida, so if it were still present in Broward, I would expect it to be found in the tiny portion of the Big Cypress at the far-western fringes of the county.
Two other Epidendrum species are reported for Broward. There is a healthy population of robust plants of Epidendrum nocturnum in a cypress forest in the same county park in northern Broward that harbors Epidendrum floridense. The widespread Epidendrum nocturnum produces the largest flowers of any Epidendrum in Florida, with the spidery, white-lipped flowers reaching to more than 3 inches across – when they open. Many of the plants in Florida, which is at the northern end of the species’ range, often produce cleistogamous flowers that fertilize themselves within the closed bud and go directly to seed. This condition may be due to a lack of sufficient pollinators in the area.
This same park where Epidendrum nocturnum grows also contains a population of Epidendrum rigidum, which, by contrast, produces little nondescript green flowers that are among the two smallest of any Epidendrum in the state (the other little one being Epidendrum strobiliferum, which is restricted to the famed Fakahatchee Strand of Southwest Florida).
Also in and around this park are healthy plants of Polystachya concreta. Someone made up a clever “common name” for this species, calling it Yellow Spikes because of its branched inflorescences of tiny upside-down yellow flowers and playing off the genus name, Polystachya, which means “many spikes”. This species, one of the New World representatives of this African-centered genus, is considered “pantropical” by some authorities.
The only other epiphytic orchid in Broward is not on the official University of South Florida list for the county, although I know a specimen of it has been collected. This is the smallest of Florida’s three leafless orchid species and also one of the smallest-flowered orchids in the state (the others being the long-unseen pleurothallid Lepanthopsis melanantha and the North Florida terrestrial Neottia australis, which formerly was placed in the genus Listera). Due to DNA research, the little leafless orchid is now known as Dendrophylax porrectus, grouping it with the large-flowered legendary Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) of Southwest Florida. However, many Florida native orchid enthusiasts still refer to it as Harrisellaporrecta. With its little wiry gray-green roots, it is sometimes called the Threadroot Orchid, a good common name. Equally good, though, is the name Jingle Bell Orchid. The tiny flowers are followed by plump little rounded seed capsules that are noticeably larger than the flowers. These do, indeed, look like little Christmas jingle bells, each suspended on a little hair-like inflorescence. The only place I have seen this orchid in Broward is in the same northern county park where Epidendrum difforme/floridense, Epidendrum nocturnum, Epidendrum rigidum and Polystachya concreta occur. There, it often grew on plants of the non-native guava (Psidium guajava). In the southern part of its range in Florida, it often grows on small branches of cypress trees (Taxodium spp.), although I have encountered in on several other hosts, including, rather surprisingly, the woody stems of the swamp-loving Climbing Aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum). Because of its diminutive size, this is a species that easily can be overlooked.
One magnificent epiphytic orchid that has been reported for Broward but never verified by a voucher specimen is Cyrtopodium punctatum, the so-called Cowhorn Orchid or Cigar Orchid. It supposedly was found in the area of today’s city of Parkland in north-central Broward, a botanically interesting area that was, sadly, mostly destroyed for pricey suburban real estate development sometime after I moved to Broward County in 1976. An acquaintance had a specimen of the Cowhorn Orchid that he claimed came from that area.
There also has been an unsubstantiated report of a large, yellow-flowered terrestrial Cyrtopodium having been seen in a residential neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. This most probably is the species now known as Cyrtopodium flavum and known in the past as Cyrtopodium polyphyllum or Cyrtopodium paranaense and, apparently erroneously, as Cyrtopodium andersonii. This Brazilian species has established a foothold in the Kendall area of southern Miami-Dade County and seems to be spreading, although not at a rapid rate.
Amazingly, despite the county being so ecologically degraded, new orchids are still being found in Broward. Already mentioned was the typical form of Sacoila lanceolata. But perhaps the most exciting find came in September of 2008, when Christopher Ohanian, a young classical pianist and intrepid local orchid explorer, discovered a population of the attractive tropical spiranthoid Eltroplectris calcarata in an isolated and somewhat degraded mesic hammock at the western edge of a large county park in the northern part of Broward. When he told me about his find over the telephone, I was sure he had made an error. He said the plants were not in flower at that time, but he found an old flowering stalk with a dehisced seed capsule, and he sent photos of it to me. My interest was piqued, so at the end of January 2009, I accompanied Christopher to the site, and, lo, and behold, there were the plants in flower – plenty of them growing in the sandy soil of the hammock. In a recent e-mail, he offered this remembrance of the day: “I think we counted about 50 plants, a half or a third of which were in bloom.” Until Christopher’s discovery, this so-called Spurred Neottia was known only from tropical hardwood hammocks in Everglades National Park and surrounding areas of southern Miami-Dade County (with an odd report of a disjunct population from a hammock in Highlands County north of Lake Okeechobee from the mid-1960s). On February 4, Christopher and I led Patricia Howell of Broward County Parks’ Environmental Section to the site, where she photographed the plants and collected a single voucher specimen. Typical of tropical spiranthoids, the colony has not come back in as great a number in recent years.
At the other end of the county, practically on the border with Miami-Dade County and not far from Sun Life Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins football team plays, another new orchid was added to the list for Broward. This is the species long known as Pteroglossaspis ecristata but now lumped into the genus Eulophia based on DNA studies. This site, now a county nature preserve, was for years part of a cattle ranch. Distinctive at this site in the city of Miramar are large but atypically low-growing trees of South Florida Slash Pine. The Pteroglossaspis/Eulophia plants grew beneath these pines, which is a typical habitat for this species. According to Patricia Howell, the plants at this site were discovered by her co-worker Jim Hamilton sometime prior to 2003, and she says they have proliferated there since then, producing their yellowish flowers with dark-purple lips from late summer into autumn.
Another attractive little tropical spiranthoid verified for Broward in recent years is Ponthieva racemosa, often called by the intriguing common name Shadow Witch. In February of 2002, environmental consultant Jack Lange and his colleague, Marisol Lebrun, were working in a narrow strip of degraded former Everglades that serves as a buffer between the upscale bedroom community of Weston and U.S. Highway 27 and the Everglades water conservation areas beyond. As Lange recalls the discovery, he had just stepped over a little blooming plant when Lebrun noticed it and called it to his attention. He realized immediately what it was because he knew the species from the Big Cypress. The plant consisted of little upward-facing green-and-white flowers atop an inflorescence emerging from the center of a rosette of velvety-looking wide green leaves. He later took photos and gathered a voucher specimen, which was sent to the herbarium at the University of South Florida. At about the same time, there was another report of this species at a site only a few miles from Lange’s location.
The other orchid added to the list for Broward is an exotic (i.e., non-native) species: the big-bulbed, small-flowered Eulophia graminea, a southern Asian species of unknown introduction that is now rapidly proliferating in South Florida, often (but hardly exclusively) in the mulched beds of landscape plantings.
Broward is also home to other exotic orchids:
* Oeceoclades maculata is a fall-blooming New World representative of this African/Madagascan genus. It is widespread in the county and throughout southern Florida. Because of its broad, mottled Sansevieria-like leaves, I call it the African Spotted-Leaf Orchid, although it has at least one less-apt common name.
* Zeuxine strateumatica is widespread throughout Florida. This little white-flowered, yellow-lipped spiranthoid orchid is native to large areas of southern Asia. Besides growing in lawns, it occasionally shows up in the pots and baskets of growers’ more prized orchid specimens.
* Spathoglottis plicata, a pretty Asian species, has shown up in a large county park near Weston, a city that inexplicably was allowed to be built in the eastern Everglades, thus stymieing any effort to bring restored water flow to that area of the Glades. This species, with its plicate, grass-like leaves and relatively large purple flowers, is being used more and more in outdoor landscape plantings in South Florida, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it spreads even further. It has already naturalized (“gone wild”) in Hawaii as well as in Puerto Rico and other islands in the West Indies.
I thank the following people who helped me prepare this article by unselfishly providing invaluable information and/or photographs: David Bogardus, Jake Heaton, Patricia Howell, Jack Lange, Mike Middlebrook, Christopher Ohanian, and Matthew Pace. I also would like to thank Jacquelyn Kallunki, Ph.D., and Thomas Zanoni, Ph.D., of the New York Botanical Garden herbarium for helping me track down the 1913 Broward specimen of Spiranthes torta.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Chuck McCartney is a former editor of the American Orchid Society Bulletin, the predecessor of Orchids magazine. He has been a resident of Hollywood in southern Broward since 1976. He has been a member of the Florida Native Plant Society for more than a quarter of a century and received the society’s Green Palmetto Award for education in 2002. He retired in 2009 after nearly 19 years as a copy editor withthe Miami Herald. All the photographs are by the author.
Speaker events are on 2nd Wednesdays at 7 pm at the Secret Woods. Field Trips are usually on a following weekend but they vary,
so always check the Calendar and check again for last minute trip updates.
Visit Coontie.org for a wealth of information about local plants.