Friday, July 21, 2017

Flower Friday: Butterfly orchid

Butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis

Photo by Mary Keim
Click on terms for botanical definitions. 

Butterfly orchid is a slow-growing, epiphytic perennial occurring naturally in mesic hammocks, hardwood swamps and mangrove forests. It is most commonly found growing on live oaks, but also occurs on bald cypress, mangroves and pond apples. Its diminutive yet showy flowers appear in late spring and summer; their honey-like fragrance attracts a variety of bees, which are the plant’s primary pollinators. 

The flower is comprised of five greenish-brown tepals that surround a white lip with a purple blotch. The plant’s linear- to lanceolate-shaped leaves are evergreen and can grow up to 12 inches long. The fruit is a capsule that is filled with many tiny seeds. Once the capsule opens, the seeds are wind-dispersed. 

Linear to lanceolate leaves
Photo by Mary Keim
The genus, Encyclia, is from the Greek enkykleoma, meaning “to encircle.” The species epiphet, tampensis, refers to the city of Tampa, where Encyclia tampensis was first discovered. The common name comes from flower’s resemblance to a butterfly. 

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)

Native range: Central and southern peninsula into the Keys

To see where natural populations of Butterfly orchid have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

Hardiness: Zones 8-11

Soil: None — this plant is epiphytic and grows on tree trunks and branches in conditions with high humidity and low nutrients.

Exposure: Full sun to light shade

Propagation: Seed, division

Note: Although butterfly orchids are grown by enthusiasts, they are considered commercially exploited in Florida and may not be harvested or sold without a permit.

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