A colony of Habenaria quinqueseta (Hq) was discovered growing in Gainesville – in the shade of what is known as the “Champion China Fir” of Florida. We believe the colony began from a single or perhaps several wind-blown spores in the early 1980's. Hq appears to have a symbiotic requirement for germination with the microrhiza of conifers.
Paul M. Brown's book, Florida Native Terrestrial Orchids, indicates several variants of Hq. They are uncommon but may be found in many Florida counties.
Being deciduous, Hq makes a seasonal appearance around May. Its low, flat, elliptical, and subtly striped green leaves erect a bloom structure in late June.
By August, mature Hq will be displaying 12” high stalks with 8-12 white, 5-bristled, slightly fragrant flowers. The nectary is nearly 1 inch long and holds the sweet reward for many species of Hawk Moths (60 plus) found in this region.
During its maximum vegetative period, Michaux's Orchid (1848) can create juvenile pea-size bulbs at the ends of certain of its thick and slightly furry roots. If these Longhorn False Rein Orchids (a synonym of Hq) are encouraged, their vigor may produce several new plants each season.
After flowering, the now olive-size pseudo-bulbs may die. However, the off-sets it has produced over several years will increase and spread the colony.
Irregular dormancy onset has been noted in the colony. This is one of many details of Hq worthy of research and evaluation.
When you install Hq in your garden, choose a shady location. Hq responds to time-release fertilizer, appreciates organic soils, requires good drainage, and will be more prolific if lightly watered in droughty periods when plant is visible. When dormant, rainfall is enough. Mulch about 1” with a fine texture material.
Richard Weaver, Botanist for our local Division of Plant Industry, formally identified the Hq colony which occurred naturally in our garden. A specimen was collected by Horticultural Inspector, C. A. Zamora, on Oct. 6, 2003.
Dr. Mark Whitten, of the University of Floria Herbarium, acquired a record specimen Hq from the subject colony. Scott Stewart received a UF PhD in early 2007, on the cultural intricacies of Hq. Select members of our Hq colony have been introduced to container culture and are being multiplied.
Hq is native from Texas, and Eastward, through the Coastal Plain Bio-Region, and into the Caribbean.
We are seeking persons and organizations (botanical gardens; state/fed parks; water mgtmt. districts; or NGOs) who will re-introduce and monitor breeder colonies of Hq throughout its possible range. Together, we can re-weave one more strand into the web of life that is so at risk from human development.
For more details, contact Jim Notestein at 352-372-2107.
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