ghost orchid

Giant Orchid, Non-crested Eulophia (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)

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:   Eulophiinae - Eulophia and related.


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Giant Orchid, Non-crested Eulophia (Pteroglossaspis ecristata)
Description:
Summary: Large terrestrials with large, heavily veined (plicate) leaves arising from underground pseudobulbs. Flowering stems up to 5.5 feet (170 cm tall), but usually around 2 feet (0.6 m) tall. Flowers small, around 1 - 1.5 cm in height, yellow green with brown-black stripes.

Common Name: Giant Orchid, Non-crested Eulophia

Habitat: Upper, semi-dry pine-palmetto scrub.

Flowering season: July through October (peaking in September)

Images:
 
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Plant in situ.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Plant in situ.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Exeptionally tall plant.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Exeptionally tall plant.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Typical flowering spike.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Typical flowering spike.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flowering spike.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flowering spike.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flower closeup.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flower closeup.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Pair of flowering spikes.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Pair of flowering spikes.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flowering stem.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flowering stem.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flower stem.
Giant Orchid (Pteroglossaspis ecristata) - Flower stem.

Description:
 

The distribution map for this species would seem to indicate that this is a common orchid in Florida, yet this is not the case, anymore. Paul Martin Brown in his book Wild Orchids of Florida notes that this species is not found nearly as often as it once was, which gives rise to its current state status as threatened. The exact reason for its decline in numbers is not known, as much suitable habitat still remains in Florida - the typical sandy upland pine-palmetto scrub that this species calls home can still be found in suitable amounts in the state of Florida.

When one is lucky enough to find a plant, it will be immediately apparent that it is an organism of many contradictory characteristics. The leaves are paper-thin, yet reinforced with tough veination (a characteristic known as plicate). The flowering stems themselves can attain heights of over five feet (150 cm), although 2-3 feet high (.75 to .9 meters) is more typical, but bear rather small and inconspicuous flowers. Although the flowering stems can bear numerous flowers, the odd twist of the flowers around the stem makes it difficult to capture more than one or two fresh flowers face-on.

The typical form of this species has yellowish-green flowers with varying amounts of brown-black on the lip. In fma. purpurea, usually found in populations outside of our state, the flowers are suffused with rose and have a deep purple lip. A distinct population of Pteroglossaspis found at Potts' Preserve in Citrus County has caused some confusion, which some deem to be a population of fma. purpurea, while others maintain it as a separate species, P. pottsii, with most favoring the former. I have chosen to maintain P. pottsii as a separate species on this site for the time being, after hearing first-hand the account of this population from Joel DeAngelis, one of the rangers at the preserve. He maintains that the normal P. ecristata at the preserve bloom at a different time (several weeks before) and in a vastly different habitat, leading to the notion that this is a separate species, or perhaps a population undergoing speciation from its parent species. Paul Martin Brown, in his paper describing P. pottsii, also describes a set of characteristics that lead him to believe that it deserves a separate species designation.

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