A Rare Find

Photographing Florida Dancing Lady Orchids

Florida dancing lady orchid

Florida dancing lady orchid in bloom, an extremely rare sight.

There are few things as exciting and satisfying for us than laying eyes on a species we’ve never seen before, be it plant or animal. That’s especially true with orchids, even more so when they’re as beautiful as the Florida dancing lady orchid.

The pic above might look like just another photo, but getting it was an endeavor more than two years in the making. We had first heard of Florida dancing lady orchids on this particular site — left unnamed at the request of the property manager — in late winter 2021.

By summer 2022, we had a chance to visit the site, and with the help of the property manager, locate the orchids. Unfortunately, Florida dancing lady orchids might bloom in summer but probably not. And they weren’t. Best month to seem them: May.

And few things are less impressive and frustrating, photographically speaking, than an orchid not in bloom. What’s the point?

So we looked forward to spring 2023. Except that August, we got sick. Sick enough to be hospitalized for a week. Sick enough to be grounded for months. And by the time I was strong enough to head to the site, I didn’t have wheels, because the transmission on my intrepid 2007 Honda Fit had died.

By the time I had a car, it was August, which meant waiting nine months more. In early May this year, I made the drive on a sunny, hot weekday afternoon, began hiking the site, and quickly found my target.

A few things about about Florida dancing lady orchids. They are extremely rare, and probably always have been. They’re only found in coastal scrubs in Palm Beach and Martin counties and in the Bahamas. Historically, they’ve only been found in a few sites, some of which have been paved over, and even then, only a relative handful of specimens were ever found and recorded. The number of known “wild” plants is probably small enough to be counted on one hand.

Florida dancing lady orchids face two main problems: declining habitat and poaching. Coastal scrubs make for prime development sites. And Florida’s native orchids, including dancing ladies, are prime targets for poachers, which is why we’ve not mentioned the name of the site where these orchids grow.

The good news is that efforts are being made to restore Florida dancing lady orchids to appropriate habitats, and 2024, we’ve heard, has been a very good year for these beautiful plants.

— David Sedore

Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.