Potts' Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)
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: Cymbidieae - Cymbidium tribe.
Subtribe: Eulophiinae - Eulophia and related.
Summary: Newly described species, likely derived from Pteroglossaspis ecristata, which it resembles. Plants consist of a series of underground pseudobulbs, the newest of which gives rise to several papery, prominently ribbed (plicate) leaves. The inflorescence is long, tipped with seven to thirteen small (around 1 cm tall), hooded flowers with a prominent, deep maroon lip. Flowers overall have a dusky rose coloring over the greenish sepals and petals, especially when the flowers are fresh. This species is only known from a few colonies located within Potts' Preserve in Citrus County.
Common Name: Potts' Orchid
Habitat: Found in sunny grassland locales and open, semi-wet fields within one central Florida wildlife management area.
Flowering season: August through October (peaking in September)
Pteroglossaspis pottsii is the newest addition to our list of Florida native orchid species, and is one of the four species indigenous only to the state of Florida. It is only found within the confines of Potts Preserve within Citrus County, and is, thus, one of the rarest orchids in the state (far rarer than the Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii). I have had several opportunities to visit this species in its native habitat, the first of which occured in September of 2007 (the same year that the description of this species was published). Our host was Joel DeAngelis, who first brought this species to the attention of Paul Martin Brown. That morning, we all piled into Joel's Ford Expedition and headed to the open field where the largest stand of this species is known to grow. As the car lulled to a stop along a small track through an open field, we saw the plants for the first time.
Growing in a stand of about 500 plants strong, they were scattered in an area of a few acres in the middle of a very large old cow pasture. Everywhere we looked, we saw the slender, reddish flowering stems rising well above the grasses. The bases of the plants held several light-green, deeply ribbed leaves, with the inflorescences arising from the plant bases. At the tips of these inflorescences (varying from 1 foot to around 4 feet), one could see anywhere from five to more than a dozen small flowers arranged in a loose spiral about the stem. The sepals and petals of each flower arch over the lip like a tiny Sikh turban. The Sikh effect was even more enhanced by the dark lip protruding beneath like a long beard. The flowers did have a slight fragrance, smelling like a cross between cough syrup and Clearasil.
Field collections were made of this species in October 2006 and the official description was published in the North American Native Orchid Journal in March 2007. The species is closely related to (and probably derived from) Pteroglossaspis ecristata. Plants were originally thought to be P. ecristata fma. purpurea, but it differs from this species in several key characteristics. P. pottsii grows in a more open, dry grassland habitat than is typical for P. ecristata (yet, paradoxically, it also grows in wetter marginal areas where P. ecristata would not typically be found). Plants of P. pottsii have a shorter stature, more thickened corms and leaves, and smaller flowers with a more uniform rose coloring. They grow in various localities throughout the preserve, but the largest stand is the one we were observing in the open pasture, covering an area many acres in size. P. ecristata has not been observed to occur in stands nearly this populous, seeming to grow in more isolated groups or as single, widely scattered individuals within an area. These characteristics have led to the conclusion that P. pottsii deserves its own species designation separate from its parent species.
We spent several hours photographing plants and flowers with a constant breeze (which only occasionally calmed down for a few seconds at a time) which posed a significant challenge. The land forms somewhat of a saddle shape in this area, funneling and concentrating the slightest breeze into a miniature gale. Because the spikes were constantly wavering in the breeze, exposure times had to be kept small and apertures more wide open, which reduced the effective depth of field. We took over seven hundred photos of these plants, in the hope that a few would turn out. As expected, a fair number of them did suffer from motion blur or lack of focus as the spikes weaved in and out of the focal point of the lens. Despite these obstacles, a number of these photographs turned out reasonably well. In 2008, we returned with plant stakes and twist ties that we used to stabilize the spikes quite a bit more, which allowed for better depth of field.
Copyright © 2008 Prem Subrahmanyam, All Rights Reserved.
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