Multi-flowered Grass Pink (Calopogon multiflorus)
Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids WebsiteClassification:
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
Subclass: Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
Order: Orchidales - Orchid order
Family: Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
Subfamily: Epidendroideae -
Tribe: Arethuseae - Arethusoids
Subtribe: Bletiinae - Bletia and related
Synonyms: Calopogon barbatus var. multiflorus
Summary: Small, erect, deciduous, terrestrial herbs arising from a small corm. One basal leaf. Flowering stem up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall, bearing up to 12 small, generally pink flowers. Flowers 3/4 inch (2 cm) across with a tuft of orange-yellow hairs on the labellum. Heavily fire dependent for blooming.
Common Name: Multi-flowered Grass Pink
Habitat: Open, semi-wet prairies and pinelands. Normally only found a few weeks after a fire.
Flowering season: March through July (peaking in April)
This species, while enjoying a large historic range, is considered endangered in our state. While suitable habitat remains, this particular species is very fire depdendent, blooming usually 3 to 5 weeks after a fire (wildfire or controlled burn) has scorched the open prairie or pineland that this species calls home.
Since much of the last century was spent suppressing fires of all sorts, the natural fire regime of many of these areas has been interrupted for many years, which has likely led to the extirpation of many colonies of this plant. The advent of regular controlled burning in many government managed wildlands has led to a small resurgence in this species in some areas, but not nearly enough. In many places in Florida, small pockets of wildland remain sandwiched between residential and commercial areas, but fires in those areas are aggressively suppressed in order to protect human structures from destruction.
Hence, anyone wanting to see this species in the wild will likely end up actively hunting it for a few years, chasing down suitable burned areas in places where it is known to grow. To add to the frustration, plants will only bloom for a short time...a span of one to two weeks, so if one has a colleague that has reported seeing this in the wild, it is best to hasten to the locality without delay.
These dainty little orchids resemble their cousin, Calopogon barbatus, and were at one time classified as a variant of this species. Three key differences between these species can help make a positive identification. Firstly, there is the fire dependence of C. multiflorus, whereas C. barbatus will bloom regardless of a recent fire. This dependence can lead to bloomings of C. multiflorus well out of the usual springtime schedule. Secondly, the petals of C. multiflorus tend to be thicker towards their apex, whereas C. barbatus petals will tend to be thicker towards the basal side of a rather prominent constriction. Finally, C. multiflorus, in keeping with its name, will tend to have many more flowers open simultaneously. A typical C. barbatus will have 3-4 flowers open, while a C. multiflorus will have 6-8 flowers open at once (provided the flowering stem has produced that many flowers).
Occasional intergrades with C. pallidus are found, with the petals reflexed forward. While C. pallidus typically blooms later in the same areas, a later-season fire might cause both species to be in bloom in the same area simultaneously.
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