Butterfly Orchid

Encyclia tampensis (Encyclia from Greek – enkykleoma “to encircle” and tampensis – “Tampa”) or Tampa butterfly orchid is a species of flowering plant in the Orchid family, subfamily Epidendroideae. This species was first described by John Torrey in 1847 1.

Native to Florida and the Bahamas, and another variety in Cuba, E. tampensis is an epiphyte most commonly found growing on southern live oaks but also on pond apples, mangroves, Bald Cypress, pines and palms in tropical hardwood hammocks and along rivers. Vouchered specimens have been cataloged by USF as far north as Levy and Putnam Counties. They are also found in the salty Florida Keys 2.

ENCYCLIA TAMPENSIS BUTTERFLY ORCHID A FLORIDA NATIVE.

“The species name tampensis describes the first recorded location of discovery near Tampa Bay. Most descriptions state that Encyclia tampensis was first collected in the Tampa Bay area by John Torrey in 1846, who then sent specimens to John Lindley in England for his study and classification. John Beckner, of the Orchid Identification Center at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, tells us that this could not be true, because John Torrey was reported to be in Florida not until 25 years later in 1871, and then only along the northern border. It is more likely that army doctors and others in the Tampa Bay area sent specimens to Torrey in New York prior to 1847, who then forwarded them on to Lindley.”

Florida Butterfly Orchid by Elizabith Smith in The Palmetto, Quarterly Magazine of the Florida Native Plant Society · Vol. 15, No. 2 · Summer 1995

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This is Florida’s most common wild orchid. While it is protected by law (collection from the wild is prohibited) sometimes private growers propagate and share it.

Plant Facts:

Common Name:  Butterfly Orchid

Botanical Name:   Encyclia tampensis

Plant Type:  Orchid

Zones: 9-11

Height:  1.5′

Soil Requirements:  An epiphyte found growing in the wild on mangroves, pond apples, oaks, and pines.

Water Requirements: 

Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Leaves:  One to three long slim leaves, from a few inches to a foot or more in length, grow from a gray-green pseudobulb. Leaves tend to be longer on plants growing in shade.

Flowers: Several 1.5″ flowers appear alternately on a tall, thin stalk, flowering from spring to fall. Blooms usually are yellow-green or brownish with a whitish lip; petals and lips are touched with a rose-purple spot or stripe. Many variations in color (including white) have been found.

Fruit: The fruit is a hanging capsule, ellipsoid in shape, 3 by 1.5 cm, and, when mature, splits into three “valves” to allow
the wind to disperse the tiny, dustlike seeds 3.

Uses:  Protected species — do not collect from the wild.

Propagation:  Seeds, division.

Sources: NATIVE FLORIDA PLANTS — REVISED EDITION; FLORIDA BUTTERFLY ORCHID; THE MILLION ORCHID PROJECT RESTORATION KIT – ENCYCLIA TAMPENSIS

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