ghost orchid

Cowhorn Orchid,Cigar Orchid,Bee-swarm Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  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:   Cymbidieae - Cymbidium tribe.
                      Subtribe:   Cyrtopodiinae - Cyrtopodium and related


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Cowhorn Orchid,Cigar Orchid,Bee-swarm Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum)
Description:
Summary: Medium-large epiphytic orchids with deciduous growths. New leaves are papery and strongly plicate. Over winter, the leaves are lost, leaving old pseudobulbs wrapped in papery sheaths. These resemble cow horns or cigars, leading to the common names for this species. New flowering stems emerge almost simultaneously with new growth to expand to multi-branched panicles up to three feet (1 meter) long. Flowers are a mix of purple, red, orange and yellow in color, each about an inch (2.5 cm) across.

Common Name: Cowhorn Orchid,Cigar Orchid,Bee-swarm Orchid

Habitat: Epiphytic in swamps of the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades. Favors cypress and buttonwood trees, often growing quite low on the tree.

Flowering season: March through May (peaking in May)

Images:
 
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - wagonload of orchids.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - wagonload of orchids.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Small Plant
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Small Plant
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Single Spike.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Single Spike.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ with Kids
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ with Kids
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ: Spikes
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Large Plant In Situ: Spikes
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Spikes Against the Sky
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Spikes Against the Sky
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.
Cowhorn Orchid/Cigar Orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) - Flower Closeup.

Description:
 

This was once a fairly common orchid in Florida, growing low primarily on cypress trees in relatively accessible swamps. Over the years, many wagon- and car-loads of this species were removed from the swamps and sold, leading to its relative rarity today. Indeed, there are probably fewer of this species than of the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), at least in accessible areas of the swamp. There are large tracts of the Big Cypress that cannot be easily reached, and it is hoped that more Cigar Orchids grow there unhampered by human interference.

Plants can reach spectacular sizes when left undisturbed, with each growth producing several new growths over its lifetime. There are few sights to rival one of these large specimen plants in flower. Their growths are deciduous like many species in the related Catasetum and Cycnoches genera, the leaves lasting only one season. One interesting feature of the leaves when they dry is that the mid-vein has a shearing diagonal weak spot that breaks off with the shed leaf, leaving behind a very sharp thorn attached to the leaf base sheath that visitors should best avoid.

The flowers themselves are quite ornate, consisting of three heavily curled sepals with a golden base color barred and spotted with purple. The tri-lobed lip tends toward a red color with a yellowish callus on the center lobe. The petals are mostly yellow with purple spots. In mid-afternoon, the flowers emit a fresh floral fragrance which attracts numerous bumblebees to the plant. The vision of one particularly large plant in full sunshine with a gentle breeze blowing, the floral scent wafting by and the sound of buzzing bumblebees has left an indelible impression in my memory.

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