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The butterfly orchid, Encyclia tampensis (subfamily Epidendroideae), gets its name from the butterfly-like movements of its multiple flowers when they swing in a breeze on their long-stalked inflorescence (Subrahmanyam 2008).  The flowers are up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) across, with green-yellowish tepals sometimes tinged with red, and smaller white or yellow petals splotched with purple or red.  The butterfly orchid blooms June-August, and sometimes again in September. Various small bees from genera Auglochlora and Halictus pollinate its sweet-smelling flowers.

Epiphytic, E. tampensis is found at low elevations (< 25 meters, or 80 feet) in the southern half of Florida through the Keys, the Bahamas and Cuba, growing especially on southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana), but also on pond apples (Annona glabra), mangroves, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), pines and palms in tropical hardwood hammocks and along rivers.

Although rare in the wild, Encyclia tampensis is Florida’s most common native orchid species and can be found growing on its own in gardens.  It is listed as a regulated plant in need of protection from commercial exploitation by the state of Florida and is protected by law from harvest from the wild.  It is recently a target of the “million orchid program” at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden as one of five orchid species for copious laboratory micropropagation in an effort to widely re-establish the species into urban parts of its native distribution (a complement to other existing orchid reintroduction projects focused on natural areas).

(Pfahl; Subrahmanyam 2008; Wikipedia 2013; Gann et al. 2005-14; Florida of North America; Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 2013)


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