click for Floridata's Homepage
Login     Register (Free!)   

Floridata graphic

Welcome (homepage)

Member Pages
Register (free!)

FloriDazL Image Sharing Service

Plant Encyclopedia
Plant List
Datagrid (beta)

More Floridata
Briarpatch Blog
Write Us
About Floridata
Privacy Policy


Orange fringed orchid in Clay County, FL.  Photo by Stibolt

The (Almost) Ghost Orchids of Clay County
by Ginny Stibolt

A few weeks ago I went on a combined field trip with our local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Florida Native Orchid Society to a site in south Clay County to view some native orchids that were in bloom.  

About 30 orange-fringed orchids (Platanthera ciliaris) made quite a show in the morning light. The pronounced lower petal is deeply divided into a fringe. Each flowering stalk stood about a foot tall and supported 20 to 30 florets. This orchid is a terrestrial orchid, which needs to grow in soil, unlike epiphyte orchids that can obtain needed nutrients and water from the air. 

In addition to the orchids, there were many other interesting native species in this meadow/ditch. The whole area was alive with butterflies and bees visiting the orchids and other flowers.  Mesmerizing.

What is interesting about this site is that the owners of the property next to this ditch have had to be vigilant and place themselves in front of heavy machinery to prevent the county workers from smoothing the whole area out to make it "neater." Ironically this native meadow takes care of itself without any maintenance and the so-called improvements would have required not only the initial work with the moving of soil and planting of grasses, but then it would have needed mowing several times a year.

So if these homeowners had not spoken up, these gorgeous orchids would have been ghosts—yet another portion of "The Real Florida" wiped out by so-called progress.  Our Florida habitat is being eaten at alarming pace by civilization. The Audubon Society estimates that some of our native bird populations have been reduced by 80% since 1967. We gardeners can change that trend one property at a time by defending existing habitat and creating some new habitat by planting more natives.

A raodside ecosystem in Clay County includes orange fringed orchids.  
			Photo by Stibolt<< While there's a fringe of mowed grassy area next to the road, the ditch supports a sustained ecosystem that required no care. This is what more of Florida would look like if we let Mother Nature have her way.

A few of the orchids' neighbors 

Other plants along this roadside include: hooded pitcher plants (Sarracenia minor), horsemint (Monarda punctata), musky mint (Hyptis alata), swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), Barbara's buttons (Marshallia obovata), yellow-eyed grass (Xyris spp), pipewort (Eriocaulon spp), plus various ferns, rushes and sedges. 

Musky mint was all around the area.  Photo by Stibolt

Musky mint 

Barbara's buttons and its pollinators.  Aren't these frilly?  Photo by Stibolt

Barbara's buttons

Horsemint or spotted beebalm was growing in profusion.  Photo by Stibolt

A carpenter bee working the horsemint.

Butterflies danced amongst the orange-fringed orchids.  Photo by Stibolt

Black swallowtails and other butterflies loved the orange-fringed orchids.

Horsemint and ferns on the other side of the road.  Photo by Stibolt A good stand of horse mint and ferns occupied the ditch on the opposite side of the road.  >>

Lessons learned:  

1) One person can make a difference in preserving (or restoring) native habitat.  
2) Native ecosystems may take a while to settle into their sustainable status, but the wait is definitely worth it.  
3) Observing nature is mesmerizing—there's so much learn that it was hard to drag everyone away.

· The Ixia chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society covering Duval, Nassau & Clay Counties:  To find a chapter near you go to
· For more information on the Florida plants and their distributions within the state: 
And of course, you can find lots of excellent information right here on

Ginny Stibolt would like to hear from readers who have suggestions and questions. After all, there are more than a few transplanted gardeners Florida trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in planting zone 8/9. She's wrote, "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," published by University Press of Florida that was released in 2009. Now she's written "Organic Methods for Growing Vegetables in Florida" with Melissa Contreras in Miami. The new book was released in Feb 2013. You may contact her or read extra details on her articles and other information posted on her website:

Top of Page


© 1996-2013 LC
Tallahassee, Florida USA