Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids
An educational photographic site dedicated to our natural treasures
Prem and several of his children at Corkscrew Swamp - in order (left to right): Hannah, Kenny, Prem Jr. (in the red, pregnant belly), and Joshua.
I have been studying Florida's native orchids for more than a quarter century. I have, over the past year, been giving presentations on my experience with native orchids at native plant and orchid societies all across the state of Florida.
A true Florida native, I was born and raised in the Tallahassee, Florida area, where I have lived most of my adult life. I have since become a resident of the Orlando area, moving because of better employment opportunities than could be had in Tallahassee. When I'm not at home spending time with my family, out photographing native orchids, growing my own collection of (legally purchased) orchids, developing my orchid-related websites, collecting fossils or geocaching, I make my living as a software engineer, primarily in the field of 3d simulation and video game development. I am also a graphic designer and 3-d computer animator. Perhaps my most widely seen animations are in the series "Florida, the Outdoor Adventure" and "Florida Takes to the Trails", both of which have aired on PBS nationally. I have also worked on or contributed to TV effects shots for many broadcast and film productions.
I am also an award-winning photographer, and my works have appeared in various magazine publications, textbooks, educational displays, orchid society newsletters, and brochures. In October 2009, my article on Epidendrum magnoliae was published in Orchids - the magazine of the American Orchid Society. A number of my photos were also used in the Illustrated Dictionary of Orchid Genera I have also contributed orchid photographs to Jay Pfahl's Orchidspecies.com website and the ISB:Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants, as well as to PBS for related website content for their Nova series.
I met my wife, Joy, while finishing my BS in Computer Science at Florida State University (with minors in physics, math, and botany) and have been happily married to her for almost two decades. We homeschool our fifteen children and often take them out on field trips to view wildlife and wildflowers and to geocache. My older teenagers can even rattle off quite a few scientific names of some of the native flora.
My father was a professor of biology for many years before retiring just a few years ago and my mother (in addition to being a homemaker) was a 4-H volunteer leader, getting us involved in horticulture, forest ecology, marine ecology, and wildlife studies, so nature was always "in my blood". Our house was situated between the Lake Talquin State Forest on one side and the Apalachicola National Forest across the street, so wild places were just a short walk from my home.
I became interested in orchids in a rather atypical way. While I always thought their flowers are pretty, there didn't seem to be anything more special about them than, say, a lily or a rose. It wasn't until as a young teen when I read an article in National Geographic on orchids that my eyes became opened to the uniqueness of this family of plants. I was intrigued by all the clever ways these flowers attract and often trick their pollinators into servicing their needs. I read about orchids that nearly drown their would-be pollinator in a bucket of sticky fluid before allowing them to escape right beneath the pollen. I read about the bee orchids that mimic females of a species well enough that male bees will often show a preference for the flower! On it went, parading a number of wild and wonderful shapes before my eyes. When I was done, I had completely fallen in love with this group of flowers. For me, it is almost a spiritual connection, as I see mirrored in them the creativity and design of the Creator.
Many years ago, as a young teen, I came across a common violet in the woods, wondering in ignorance if it was an orchid. A quick look through a wildflower book left me disappointed, but a few pages over were illustrations of a few terrestrial orchids (some native to Florida and some not). Within a year of that time, my family had purchased Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants by C. Ritchie Bell and Bryan J. Taylor, and we started to find a few species of orchids nearby-Spiranthes praecox and Cleistes bifaria were our first two native orchids ever seen. To this day, I have a particular soft spot for Cleistes bifaria. Two or three years later, I ran across Carl Luer's book The Native Orchids of Florida in a bookstore, which my parents purchased for me as a birthday present.
Armed with the information in this book, I was able to locate many more native orchids, some growing within just a few hundred feet of where I found the violet growing a few years earlier...it was all a matter of knowing when, where, and what to look for. Over the years, as my family took trips to the beach or elsewhere, and as we went driving through the nearby Apalachicola National Forest, we located many more species, noting locations and blooming times. I have watched these colonies over the years, seeing some colonies grow and thrive and other colonies disappear entirely. The photographs presented on this site are the culmination of all those years of cataloguing these plants and photographing them using state-of-the-art digital technology.
Some of the first native orchids I saw were literally within a fifteen minute walk from our home. Eventually, we found eight species growing in this area (Cleistes bifaria, Corallorhiza wisteriana, Listera australis, Spiranthes praecox, Spiranthes sylvatica, Spiranthes tuberosa, Spiranthes vernalis, and Tipularia discolor) During the course of this pursuit, I have found three species of native or naturalized orchids for the first time in Leon County, FL (where Tallahassee is located). These were Platanthera ciliaris, Platanthera flava, and Zeuxine strateumatica. Dr. Loran Anderson (now retired from Florida State University) obtained herbarium specimens of these from my findings.
I use a Canon Digital Rebel XTi camera with Canon and Sigma telephoto and macro lenses and a Canon 580 EX II flash (sometimes with a Canon off-camera hot shoe cable). I use a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx GPS unit for finding my way to and from orchids in the deep woods and for geocaching.
No Text or Images from this web site may be used, in whole or in part, without the express permission of the author.