Butterfly Orchid of Florida
The most abundant orchid in central and south Florida
THE BUTTERFLY ORCHID IS LISTED BY THE STATE AS COMMERCIALLY EXPLOITED, AND COLLECTING IT IS PROHIBITED.
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.