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Another of Florida's rarest orchids - Tolumnia bahamensis

Discussion in 'Orchid Species' started by prem, May 18, 2009.

  1. prem

    prem Wild Orchid Enthusiast

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    Altamonte Springs (near Orlando), FL
    Florida's dancing lady orchid...Tolumnia bahamensis.

    This little beauty, related to Oncidium, used to be found in quite a few wild areas in the coastal scrub in a very restricted area of southeastern coastal Florida...although due to its very restricted habitat, it has never been common, even in its heyday. Heavy development has all but wiped this species out, but a few plants still eke out a tenuous existence within a local state park and a very few remaining empty lots. For someone fortunate enough to be out in the field in one of these few localities, the search for plants is quite daunting...their heads of whitish flowers reach to the edge of the wild rosemary (not related to the spice) and palmetto scrub beneath an overstory of scrubby pine trees. To add to the insult for this species, seed pods seem to form only rarely, perhaps pointing to a decline in their natural pollinators...I would suspect copious use of pesticides in surrounding housing developments to keep boring, green lawns looking their best may be to blame, but that's only pure conjecture on my part. This is a more common species in the Bahamas, from whence its specific epithet is derived. It is also related to (and some would consider it synonymous with) Tol. variegatum, which can readily be found in cultivation.

    The plants themselves grow like a typical equitant Oncidium (i.e. Tolumnia) with somewhat narrower leaves arranged in small fans around microscopic pseudobulbs. Each fan is joined to the last by a rather long isthmus of rhizome (atypical for Tolumnias), which can actually look like an emerging flower spike before the leaves start to fan out at the tip. They grow in the bases of rosemary, palmetto, and/or pine twigs very low to the ground, with their root tips actually buried beneath the pine needle litter in the sand.

    Each flower is between 1/2 and one inch across, depending on the plant (Luer shows a photo of a sheet covered with numerous individual flowers, showing marked variation in flower shape and size, in his epic work, The Native Orchids of Florida). The flowers are somewhat unpleasantly scented--the best way I can describe it is that it is similar to the smell of the commercial herbicide, Round-Up.

    Photographed in natural, late afternoon/early evening light. Canon Digital Rebel Xti, Sigma 105mm macro lens, 1/160s, f10, ISO 100.


  2. Karen

    Karen Species nut

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    Southern California
    It's so great that you search the rare ones out & photograph them & share!
    Thank you!