Cyrtopodium flavum- An Invasive Orchid in the USA

Painting #22; Cyrtopodium flavum

"Cyrtopodium flavum"  Watercolor 14 x 18 ©2012 Mindy Lighthipe

I am feeling very fortunate these days about coming to live here in Gainesville, Florida. Gainesville is home to the University of Florida. The land of "Tim Tebow" and the Gators. UF has over 60,000 students here and they offer an enormous range of degrees. I am amazed at the network here. The possibilities are endless.

In past blog posts I wrote about Mark Whitten. He is part of the orchidology department at UF. I never knew that one could be an orchidologist, I thought that the term was simply "botanist". Mark emailed me a few weeks ago that he had a Cyrtopodium flavum in bloom and wanted to know if I was interested in painting it. First of all, I had no idea what a Cyrtopodium flavum was, or even what it looked like. I knew it was an orchid ….. so of course I said, " YES!"

Cyrtopodium flavum is a terrestrial orchid native to Brazil that has made its way into the US and is making its home in Florida. It came in from people who collect orchids and has made its way into the wild and is now considered to be an invasive species. Part of the reason for this is that along with the plant has come its pollinator; Centris nitid. Centris nitid is a small bee. The male collects fragrance from the flower and gathers it into small "baskets" located in his hind legs. This is done to attract female bees. As he collects his "love potion" the orchid deposits pollinaria onto the bee. As he travels from plant to plant, pollination occurs.

So where is the bee in my painting? I am hoping to get a specimen from Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at Fairchild Gardens in Miami. Dr. Hong Lui has been studying Cyrtopodium flavum and Centris nitid in hopes of further understanding the consequences of non-native plants and bees. Invasive plants are becoming more and more of a problem here in Florida, but more about that later.

The orchid was in bloom and it only lasted about a week or so. I had to act quickly before it died. I made the composition and left space to add the bee, when and if I am able to obtain a specimen. I am hoping to place the bee under the enlargement of the flower, also as an enlargement. I hope to also show the bee in flight around the blossoms in proportion to the flower. When and if I add these to the painting I will be sure to rescan it and post it.

In the meantime I have had another exciting thing happen from the Univeristy of Florida. This upcoming week I will be teaching at "Plant Camp". Plant Camp is a program that trains teachers from the State of Florida how to bring conservation and awareness to school children about invasive plants. I will be teaching them how to draw LEAVES! 24 teachers were selected by UF for this special program from over 100 applicants. Not only was I honored with being able to teach in this program, I was also selected to be a participant. So this week I will be traveling around Florida learning about invasive and native plants. I am not sure how much painting I will get done, but I will be armed with my camera, and sketch pad. I may have to double up after the week is over. It is almost July…. mid-point of my 52/52 painting challenge.

Have a great week!

~Mindy

PS: Do you know the plants in your area that are considered invasive?