The Great Florida Outdoors

Dr. Robert Norman, Clinical Professor, Dermatology, Nova Southeastern University

What is this called?

The Tampa butterfly orchid is native to Florida and the Bahamas. It is an epiphyte most commonly found growing on southern live oak. Other homes include cypress, pond apples, mangroves, pines, and palms in tropical hardwood hammocks and along rivers. It has dark green 7 cm pseudobulbs with narrow foliage up to 16 cm in length and 2 cm in width with flowers that are alternate, 2.5 cm in diameter, and fragrant. The mature plants produce a branched inflorescence in summer containing several flowers with green to bronze sepals and petals surrounding a white lip with a purple dot.

Encyclia is from the Greek – enkykleoma “to encircle” and tampensis – “Tampa”, first described by John Torrey in 1846. The name “butterfly” orchid was given because of how they sometimes appear in a breeze. Remember to look up when exploring the Florida landscape!
What causes the color change on the high water mark?

“Lichens as Indicators of Hydrology Lichens have long provided a means to date historical, naturally-occurring events because they are long-lived, have a relatively slow radial growth rate, and have different species-specific tolerances to inundation (Benedict 2009). In forested wetland systems, elevations of past water levels can be inferred by ‘reading’ the history of lichen lines on tree boles. An understanding of the relationship between lichen lines and recurring water elevations is particularly important at sites for which there are either no hydrodata, or no hydrodata exist for the time period of interest.

At one such site, in one of the few studies of lichen lines ever published in central Florida, Hale (1984) observed a corticolous (i.e. ‘on bark’) lichen line ‘move’ up a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) tree bole over time. The apparent upward migration of the lichen line was in response to consecutively higher flooding events along the Peace River in Polk County, Florida. Hale’s study was the first published work in Florida that associated sustained, elevated water levels with chlorosis, exfoliation, and disintegration of lichens on trees.

He found that in order to form a lichen line, water must remain at an elevated level for at least seven days to sufficiently kill lichen thalli below that level. (Tim Hull “Using Lichens as Indicators of Hydrology in Mixed Pond-Cypress (Taxodium ascendens) – Pine (Pinus sp.) Wetlands in Central Florida”

Lichen is sensitive to water and chemical changes and is an indicator of pollution.

What is this fascinating tree?

This is sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). It can grow up to 148 ft. The leaves of the Sweetgum is hand shaped, lobed with typically five leaf tips with serrated leaf margins. The fruits are spiky capsule fruits that contain up to 40 capsules and in autumn the whole ground under the tree is often covered with seeds.

The branches are light brown and often corky and the bark (Sweet-Gum is also called Alligator-Wood) is strong furrowed and light brown. The Sweetgum’s resinous sap running from the wounded bark was previously used in chewing gum production.
Get out and explore the Great Florida Outdoors!

Dr. Norman is an advanced master naturalist graduate of the FMNP program from UF and a board-certified dermatologist based in Tampa and Riverview. He can be reached at 813-880-7546.


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