Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sandhill Surprise

Florida sandhill and scrub systems are two of my favorite plant communities. There are so many neat things to be found. And, today I found something new to me! Too Cool!!!

While searching for wiregrass and checking on the progress of the liatris (shortleaf gayfeather: Liatris tenuifolia), I almost stepped right past this little beauty. This gem is the native terrestrial orchid Pteroglossaspis ecristata, common name giant orchid or false coco or wild coco. Native to the Southeast, it is threatened in Florida and endangered in North Carolina. Upland habitat loss and fire suppression are likely the key reasons for this plants decline.

Now with a mouthful of a name like Pteroglossaspis ecristata, I just had to find out what the derivation was! Pteron (wing), glossa (lip), aspis (shield) then ecristata for without crest. Interestingly enough, this plant used to be genus Eulophia which means well crested. That means the original naming was well crested without crest. (I am such a plant nerd!)

The foliage has an almost pleated appearance and could be easily mistaken for palmetto or sabal seedling if you were not paying attention.

And I actually did find a clump of wiregrass. Hard to believe but, I think it is the only one.

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