Carter's Orchid (Basiphyllaea corallicola)
Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids WebsiteClassification:
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
Subclass: Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
Order: Orchidales - Orchid order
Family: Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
Subfamily: Epidendroideae -
Tribe: Arethuseae - Arethusoids
Subtribe: Bletiinae - Bletia and related
Synonyms: Carteria corallicola Small 1910.
Summary: Plant a small, terrestrial herb with one to two narrow, fleshy leaves and an erect inflorescence bearing self-pollinating flowers that seldom open. Flowers 1 cm long with pale pink to white tepals and a bright magenta lip.
Common Name: Carter's Orchid
Habitat: Pine rocklands in extreme south Florida and the neighboring Bahamas.
Flowering season: September through October (peaking in October)
This species, while originally described from Florida, has seldom been seen in its type locality (pine rocklands south of Miami). In fact, Carl Luer, in his book The Native Orchids of Florida had to resort to photographing this species in the Bahamas.
It has since been seen only rarely in Florida, except for one sizable population at a small regional park in a suburb in the Miami metroplex.
Plants are quite inconspicuous in and out of flower, consisting of one or two narrow, fleshy, blade-like leaves, often with a shading of purple near their bases and a single, erect inflorescence.
The inflorescence is most often a raceme or a loosely branched panicle, bearing three to ten well-spaced flowers. The flowers themselves are small, only 1 cm long or just a little longer. To the chagrin of the orchidist, however, the flowers only open a small amount, if at all, often self-pollinating before the bud ever opens. Observing the flowers up-close, one can see a brilliant magenta lip peeking from between the pale sepals. If one were to part the flower open a bit more, five crests can be observed running down the center of the lip, similar to other related members of the Bletiinae.
Owing to their self-pollinating habit, these plants can form large colonies over time, provided their habitat is not razed and built-over as has been much of the Miami area. In fact, as of the writing of this article, one of the largest undeveloped swathes of pine rockland formerly managed by the University of Miami in the Miami area (which, undoubtedly, contains much suitable habitat for this orchid) is likely to be turned into a Wal-Mart, an L.A. Fitness, an Applebee's and a number of apartments. This, unfortunately, seems to be the standard in Florida.
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