But­ter­fly Orchid of Florida

The most abun­dant orchid in cen­tral and south Florida

Times of the Islands - - Nature’s Notebook - BY WIL­LIAM R. C OX


The but­ter­fly orchid (En­cy­clia tam­p­en­sis, also Epi­den­drum tam­p­ense) of Florida is the most abun­dant epi­phytic (grow­ing on an­other plant but not par­a­sitic) orchid in south­ern and cen­tral Florida. The genus name En­cy­clia means “to en­cir­cle,” re­fer­ring to the lobes of the flower lip that en­cir­cle the col­umn where the sta­mens and pis­til are united, which is unique to or­chids. The species name tam­p­en­sis orig­i­nated from the but­ter­fly orchid first be­ing dis­cov­ered in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1846. With ap­prox­i­mately 30,000 species, or­chids are the largest fam­ily (Orchi­daceae) of flow­er­ing plants on earth.

Most of Florida was not de­vel­oped un­til the 1920s; there­fore, many na­tive ar­eas have per­sisted. Ex­cept for Alaska, Florida has pro­por­tion­ately more land set aside and pro­tected at the fed­eral, state, county and lo­cal lev­els. Many pri­vate lands are also pro­tected. This is why the 67 coun­ties in Florida all have or­chids and orchid habi­tat. More than 40 species of orchid, ac­count­ing for more than half the orchid species in the state, are found in the south­ern seven coun­ties of Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Mon­roe and Palm Beach. The but­ter­fly orchid is abun­dant in all th­ese coun­ties.

The but­ter­fly orchid oc­cu­pies man­grove forests, swamps and hard­wood for­est habi­tats. It flow­ers pri­mar­ily from May through Au­gust, mostly in June and July, but can flower any time of the year. All or­chids are mono­cotyle­dons, mean­ing each has a sin­gle emerg­ing leaflike struc­ture when the seed ger­mi­nates. Lilies, palms and grasses are also mono­cots.

The but­ter­fly orchid is a herba­ceous peren­nial with green pseu­dob­ulb (swollen stem that acts as a wa­ter stor­age or­gan) that is topped by one to three lance­o­late leaves. Th­ese leaves are 3 to 12 inches long and 3/8 to 3/4 inches wide. The flow­ers are 3/4 inches wide and lo­cated on branching spikes that ob­tain 30 inches in length with 45 blooms. The wide­spread flower pe­tals and sepals are sim­i­lar in shape and size.

The flower col­ors in­clude shades of yel­low, green or brown. The lip of the flower is white with a crim­son or ma­genta spot in the cen­ter. Orchid flow­ers have three sepals, two pe­tals and a re­main­ing petal that is mod­i­fied into a lip. The lip guides pol­li­na­tors to­ward the nec­tar where they are forced to pass by the col­umn, ef­fect­ing pol­li­na­tion. Or­chids can be pol­li­nated by flies, bees, wasps, but­ter­flies and hum­ming­birds. But­ter­fly orchid flow­ers emit a sweet fra­grance from mid­morn­ing to the af­ter­noon, at­tract­ing small pol­li­nat­ing bees. It is epi­phytic on a va­ri­ety of trees, in­clud­ing pop ash, cy­press, pond ap­ple, live oak, gum, red maple, man­grove and but­ton­wood. Each orchid has many ex­ter­nal roots that an­chor the pseu­dob­ulb to a tree trunk or branch. The roots ab­sorb nu­tri­ents and wa­ter only from the sur­face of the tree. Af­ter pol­li­na­tion, an

90 years―Cap­tiva’s Cur­tis Perry in the 1920s knocked on doors seek­ing do­na­tions for a com­mu­nity cen­ter. It was in the fol­low­ing years twice ren­o­vated. “I think the com­mu­nity will be pleased,” Nowacki says of the mod­ern­iza­tion.

Is­land au­thor­i­ties first pic­tured a brand-new com­mu­nity house across Peri­win­kle Way in a clus­ter of other struc­tures amid BIG ARTS and the Sani­bel His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum and Vil­lage.

But Sani­bel Com­mu­nity House direc­tors a cou­ple of years ago de­cided to keep the build­ing where it stands, how­ever, largely be­cause im­prove­ments couldn’t wait, says Teresa Riska-Hall, its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. Changes in the new struc­ture in­clude breeze­ways and a por­tico, a big kitchen, more space for clubs, of­fices, per­for­mances and events, fed­er­ally com­pli­ant re­strooms. Some wood floor­ing was sal­vaged.

Con­struc­tion can­celed hol­i­day events, but it will open well be­fore the fa­mous an­nual shell show in March. “We are very ex­cited about com­plet­ing this com­mu­nity-wide pro­ject and to have so many hands and hearts com­ing for­ward to as­sist in the ef­forts,” Riska-Hall says. “[Amy Nowacki] has re­ally done a great job in cre­at­ing a build­ing with is­land charm which still al­lows the his­tory of the 1927 house to shine through. We are thrilled and can’t wait to open the doors to our com­mu­nity.”

Cur­tis Perry helped usher in a com­mu­nity cen­ter on land do­nated by Cordie Nutt. A to­tal makeover will mark the build­ing's 90-year an­niver­sary.

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