The (Almost) Ghost Orchids of Clay County
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.
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.
<< 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.
A good stand of horse mint and ferns occupied the ditch on the opposite side of the road. >>
1) One person can make a difference in preserving
(or restoring) native habitat.
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: www.greengardeningmatters.com.