By Miles Hardy
Last winter’s freeze and routine tree trimming were hard on the “wild” orchids mounted in our Village. The June 2022 inventory found 23 orchids still present on campus, down from 42 last year.
Turning a domesticated orchid loose into the wild and leaving it to fend for itself is truly “tough love.” Coping with Central Florida’s storms, drought, bugs, squirrels, heat and cold, stresses orchids greatly. Leaves are not shiny or perfectly formed. Blooms are not large and plentiful. These are not the sort of plants you commonly see in greenhouses or stores. These are battle-scarred survivors. But hopefully, in time, they will adapt, flourish and offer splashes of exotic color to our campus.
Blue Spring State Park is a good place to see wild orchids in their natural setting, especially the most common orchid in Central Florida which is Bartram’s Tree Orchid, also known as the Greenfly Orchid. On a walk along the park’s boardwalk from the swimming area to the spring, I usually see five to six orchids clinging to oak trees. To find them, look at limbs near the water and focus on clumps of fern. There is one in the swimming area close enough to touch. But avoid the temptation to handle it as all native Florida orchids are protected by law.
At the time of writing this article few of our wild orchids are blooming. Most of our Village’s wild orchids bloom in the springtime but the top left photo is a recent picture of a Cattleya Orchid mounted in an oak tree on Majestic Oaks Court. The top right photo is a picture of a Noble Pink Dendrobium Orchid in bloom in Florabunda Circle’s little traffic island.
What have I learned over the last two years? It is clear that Dendrobiums, some Cattleya and native orchids are the most compatible with our climate. I have also learned to avoid mounting orchids in younger trees undergoing Village trimming practices. Older trees with lower branches already trimmed away make better mounting candidates. I also plan to mount more orchids around our lake as they love the extra humidity and the water helps orchids stay warm in cold weather.