Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Florida Butterfly Orchid



A delicate and sweet-scented herald of summer, the Florida butterfly orchid is blooming now. A friend gave this particular orchid to me after it fell from her cypress tree, and every June it flowers prolifically, even though it now resides on a live oak tree. I took some time to draw it this weekend, both the blooms and the pseudobulbs.

Although today is the first day of summer, it seems like it has been here in Southwest Florida for ages. Our temperatures have been in the middle to high nineties (Fahrenheit) every day, with very little rain (in our area) to cool us off. Despite the high heat, humidity, and scarce rain, green things are growing and thriving and blooming.


I love this little orchid. The blooms are small but vibrantly colored and have a light sweet fragrance. The prominent white lip with its bright magenta-to-violet smudge serves as a landing platform for pollinators.

Although butterflies will visit the flowers, pollination is mainly performed by bees. It’s speculated that the common name comes from the similarity of the dancing flowers on their long stems to as cloud of small butterflies fluttering in the tree branches.

I sketched the orchid bulbs and leaves on site with my sepia Micron Pigma pen and added watercolor later, in the comfort of a mosquito-free environment! If you look at the spent flowers, you can see the swelling seed capsules forming. I sketched and painted the flower studies inside, so I could take a little longer and look at the flower structures from different angles.


The Florida butterfly orchid is one of our most common orchids. It grows on tree branches as an epiphyte, gathering its nutrients and moisture from the air. They’ve become more rare as people have collected them and their natural habitat of cypress and slash pine trees have fallen to development. Native orchids are now protected by law, and should never be collected from the wild.

If you’d like to see my drawings and blog entry from last year (6-28-10), please click here.

Teachers, students and parents!
Click here for a free PDF file of a Florida butterfly orchid that you can save and print.

And you can always visit my Flickr photostream to see all of my nature journal images.

Thank you for stopping by!