ghost orchid

Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)

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:   Maxillarieae - Maxillaria and related
                      Subtribe:   Oncidiinae - Oncidium and related


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Description:
Summary: Small, semi-epiphytic herbs found in the bases of saw palmetto and rosemary bushes. Growths consist of fans of near-succulent leaves connected by a thin rhizome. Spikes emerge in spring to carry up to 50 small flowers in a branching panicle. Critically endangered.

Common Name: Florida Dancing Lady Orchid

Habitat: Coastal pineland scrub, in association with sand pines, palmettos, and coastal rosemary.

Flowering season: May through June (peaking in May)

Images:
 
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)
Florida Dancing Lady Orchid (Tolumnia bahamensis)

Description:
 

The region shown on the distribution map is somewhat misleading, as these orchids have only been found historically in an area just a few miles on either side of the Palm Beach County/Marty County line, where they grow in the coastal scrub dominated by sand pine (Pinus clausa), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and coastal rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides). Since this habitat is also a favorite area for humans to build condominiums, houses, and golf courses, these orchids have been pushed to the edge of extirpation in Florida.

They are now only found reliably within the borders of a state park in the vicinity. Thankfully, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is working with the park administrators to propagate plants from wild-induced seed pods and reintroduce those into wild areas around the park property, both in areas where plants already grow, as well as new areas of suitable habitat. Since they are not very fire-hardy, this will ensure that the only plants left will not be wiped out by a passing wildfire.

Poaching is also another pressure even on plants found within the park, which is especially unfortunate, as they can be purchased commercially from several orchid vendors. See the links section of this website for vendors that carry species of orchids known to be found in the state of Florida.

Plants are typically found in the bases of rosemary shrubs in areas where sand pines form a bit of overhead shade. The roots grow along the bark, in the air and occasionally penetrate the pine needle layer into the sand beneath. Flower spikes emerge in spring to bloom in late spring/early summer on a panicle that reaches the tops of the rosemary bushes.

The small, 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide flowers are quite striking with their flared skirts and outstretched side lobes resembling festive Spanish dancing ladies. The 'bodice' of the dress is fitted with yellow-colored protuberances which adds to the resemblance to a feminine figure. The flowers have a fragrance that reminds me of the herbicide "Round-up".

During one photography session, a green, metallic bee (probably a euglossine bee) started to alight on a flower, but then thought better of it. Since these are a recent migrant to Florida, I don't believe this is the typical pollinator.

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