One of my very favorite types of wild native orchids I’ve found in the wild are those belonging to the tribe Cymbidieae, all of which are found in the tropics or subtropics. Not only are the flowers spectacularly colorful and often large, each plant often has many flowers in bloom at the same time. Some species can be found either growing off the ground in or on trees (epiphytic), or they can be found growing in the soil (terrestrial). This all depends on the species. What they all do have in common, is their growth pattern: none of them grow from a single vertical stem, but rather a horizontal stem called a rhizome that produces pseudobulbs (structures that physically look similar to flower bulbs) that are water-storing organs that help them survive prolonged dry periods and drought. Each of these pseudobulbs can grow its own leaves and flower-bearing stem. Because of this, when you find one flowering stalk, you will almost always find many more at varying stages of growth or development nearby. The following are some of the many species I’ve found and photographed in the wild across Southern Florida.

click on any image to enlarge

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Close-up of a wild coco growing in the Fakahatchee Strand. These large flowers can vary in color and shape from one plant to another.

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Photographed from above in the Estero Bay Preserve, the wild coco is one of the most spectacular and common terrestrial orchids to be found in Southern Florida.

Pott's Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

Pott’s Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

The newly named P. pottsii growing in a pine scrub in Citrus County, Florida.

Pott's Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

Pott’s Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

Close-up of the flower of the Pott’s giant orchid.

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

The terrestrial cowhorn orchid found growing in the Fakahatchee Strand – in full flower weeks before it was stolen from the wild. This is why I no longer tell anyone where the rare orchids are – this happens all too often! They are too hard to find, and very disheartening when they are taken – usually to die in some orchid enthusiast’s collection because it has been shocked by its removal from the conditions in which it grew from seed.

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

Yellow cowhorn orchid found in the Fakahatchee Strand by another orchid enthusiast, and he told me where to find it. This plant was stolen from the wild a couple of weeks later by some lowlife.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

This incredible orchid has a long history of being taken from the wild for the orchid trade. There are stories of single plants weighing hundreds of pounds being pulled out of the Everglades by the wagon load. These days, small ones are difficult to find.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar orchids are most often found growing on old cypress stumps or knees.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

How it gets its name. In the summer, these orchids lose all their leaves, and the result looks like a clump of cigars attached to the base of a tree or cypress knee. This massive cigar orchid is the biggest I’ve ever seen!

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Wild coco growing in the Estero Bay Preserve in Lee County, Florida. This classic roadside orchid is regularly found in fall and winter, and can reach up to three feet in height.

Crestless Plume Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

Crestless Plume Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

Also known as a giant orchid – this terrestrial orchid looks like anything but and orchid. Many of the ones I’ve photographed have been about 40-50 inches tall on average.

Pott's Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

Pott’s Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis pottsii)

Beautiful pink flowers with a deep burgundy lip make this recent discovery to the orchid world a pleasure to see in the wild.

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

Yellow Cowhorn Orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)

Yellow cowhorn orchid photographed in the pre-dawn in South Florida with a ring-flash. Hopefully this one will be safe from poachers!

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Wild Coco Orchid (Eulophia alta)

Beautifully colored form of the wild coco orchid. This one was found growing next to a ditch in Charlotte County, Florida.

Crestless Plume Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

Crestless Plume Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

A location in Lee County has well over a hundred of these unusual tall orchids growing in two distinct colonies. The location will remain undisclosed as these orchids are becoming very rare at an alarming rate.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

The fantastically mottled and twisted flowers of the cigar orchid in a massive display deep in the Big Cypress National Preserve. This is by far the largest one I’ve found, and hopefully will provide plenty of seeds for this orchid to recover after decades of poaching.

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

The unmistakable variegated leaf of the African spotted orchid. The underground pseudobulb is partially exposed for this shot.

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

Although not truly native, this naturalized orchid can be found in just about every wooded area in South Florida.

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

African Spotted Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata)

The African spotted orchid, also known as the monk orchid, has its roots in Africa, from where it is believed it was accidentally or unknowingly brought to Florida. It has also been found in many parts of Puerto Rico.

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

A close-up of a cigar orchid flower against a black diffuser (a photographer’s tool for adjusting natural light) in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

SEE MORE WILD NATIVE ORCHIDS

                                                                                          

Sharing and commenting via the social media links below helps me greatly, and is much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Rich Leighton
March 18, 2016
ALL IMAGES AVAILABLE FOR PRINT OR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD!
©2016 Leighton Photography & Imaging