ghost orchid

Thickroot Orchid, Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  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:   Vandeae - Vandaceous orchids
                      Subtribe:   Angraecinae - Angraecum and relatives (Angraecoids)


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Thickroot Orchid, Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum)
Description:
Synonyms: Aeranthus pachyrrhizus Reichenbach f. 1865.

Summary: Plant a leafless epiphyte with flattened, deep green roots with orange growing tips. Inflorescence a short raceme borne in autumn bearing up to 25 small flowers with orange colored outsides and white-cream insides. All sepals and petals similar in size and shape, giving the flowers the appearance of a six-parted star.

Common Name: Thickroot Orchid, Ribbon Orchid

Habitat: Epiphytic in swamps of the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp. Common hosts are Pop Ash, Pond Apple, and Royal Palm.

Flowering season: September through November (peaking in October)

Images:
 
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - plant with seed pods.
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - plant with seed pods.
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - flower.
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - flower.
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - flower.
Thickroot Orchid/Ribbon Orchid (Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum) - flower.

Description:
 

This species is found infrequently (but more frequently than the Ghost Orchid) within the swamps of southwestern Florida. Plants are leafless except for a brief seedling leaf borne when they first begin to grow. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of their more famous leafless cousin, these plants are often poached mistakenly. Even out of flower, however, these are quite distinct from the other leafless orchids with their flattened roots that remain a deep green even when dry and their orange-colored root tips. The Ghost Orchid, by contrast has roots that are more round in cross-section with a silvery sheen when dry. Ghost orchid roots also have the characteristic white "tick marks" which are absent in Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum.

In the fall, the small inflorescences emerge from the abbreviated growing center of the plant. The flowers when in bud are a brilliant orange color on their outsides. Once open, they reveal a cream-white colored inside. All the floral segments have a very similar appearance, giving the flowers a six-pointed star shaped quality. The lip ends behind in a short, club-like spur. The flowers are borne in two distinct ranks down each side of the raceme, with only a few opening at a time. A (comparatively) large inflorescence can be in flower for many weeks as a result.

Soon after flowering, the seed pods begin to ripen, looking like a tiny bunch of unripe bananas situated in the middle of the radiating roots. These burst in late spring, being fully dehisced around the same time that the Ghost Orchid begins to take center stage with its summer blooming.

While I have seen this species since 2008 in the Fakahatchee Strand, it has only recently worked out where my schedule and this orchid's blooming synced up enough that I could witness these in flower and photograph them. Now with these photographs in tow, I can present this species in all its glory on this profile page.

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