While out hiking in the scrubby flatwood habitat of Oscar Scherer State Park, I was delighted to come across this Crestless Plume Orchid, Pteroglossaspis ecristata, shooting out of a clump of golden rod. The Crestless Plume Orchid is also known as the Florida Giant Orchid as it is a terrestrial orchid with 10-30 blooms that a-top stalks that can grow from three to five feet tall. It can have two to four long (6-28 inches) and one inch wide basal type leaves with three to five veins growing up from the root bulb. This Crestless Plume Orchid is unique in that it has a yellowish-green hood covering a purple flower making it difficult to pollinate. I witnessed an ant crawling in and out of the hood, although I am not sure it was actually pollinating. This would leave me to believe bees and other crawling insects would be the pollinators.
Crestless plume orchid is a perennial herb that blooms only every few years. Blooms seem to occur more frequently after a fire. The Crestless Plume can be found throughout Florida in scrubby flatwoods or sandhill habitats with sandy well drained soils. Because its numbers have been declining in recent years, this Florida native orchid is classified as threatened and has been proposed to be upgraded to the endangered list.
Although hearty clumps of them have been known to grow together in Lee County, I only spotted three individual stalks in Oscar Scherer State Park, two together in one location and the third in a remote location.
For more information on the Crested Plume Orchid read:
Book: Wild Orchids of Florida by Paul Martin Brown
Blog: Florida Native Orchids, Prem Subrahmanyam
Website: Rare Plant Species, by Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division