Epidendrum magnolia The Green Fly Orchid

Louisiana’s only native epiphytic orchid Epidendrum magnoliae, formerly E. conopseum aka the Green Fly Orchid. It is usually can be found in bloom from April – August but the species is known produce flowers as late as November.

It ranges from Louisiana to southern North Carolina but the range map is misleading. It only occurs along the lower part of most states and not in their northern areas. It has been documented in Louisiana from the Abbeville area of Vermillion Parish eastward including many locations in the Atchafalaya Basin near St. Martinsville. It is particularly common east of the Mississippi River in nearly all of the “Florida” Parishes. I recall being told about a location near Lake Charles as there are many Southern Magnolias in the woods in that area, but have never seen a specimen to confirm it.

It is apparently not known from TX, but it would not surprise me if it is eventually discovered there along the lower east coast region.

Its favorite tree is the Southern Magnolia. Dr. Charles Allen (Louisiana plant guru) once told me that he thought every Southern Magnolia in Livingston Parish had this orchid on it. The orchid also is also known to grow on Live Oak trees and I have even seen it growing on River Birch in an area where the orchid was very abundant. Its occurrence on Live Oak is somewhat of a mystery to me, Why? Well Live Oaks are very common trees throughout the south, but the orchid is NOT common on them. I have only seen it in abundance on many Live Oaks in one location near Hammond LA. I have found it under Live Oaks at Jean Lafitte National Park, where the orchid plants that had fallen from the trees on the ground beneath them. Oddly I never could see it in the trees above. Since our native resurrection fern is so common on Live Oak trees I suspect the orchid may also be more common but it remains well hidden by all of the ferns. Surprisingly it seems to be frequent in Swamps often growing on Bald Cypress trees. There are numerous herbarium collections documenting it from the Pearl River swamps all the way to swamps near Abbeville. Obviously such places are just a tad inhospitable to explore so no doubt thats why it remains elusive.

A subspecies of this orchid occurs in Northeastern Mexico. I have seen specimens from that region being grown by orchid enthusiast. The leaves from Mexican plants are slightly larger and thicker but its still recognizable as the same species. While it is very cold hardy, it has always been assumed that it favors Magnolia trees because they are evergreen (not deciduous) and the dense leaf canopy offers the orchid increased protection from the elements.

While it has not been found on Avery Island there is certainly a high probability it is in the area and surrounding Cypress Swamps. I did transplant some on 3 trees in different locations on the Island, two of which still survive, and one of those is doing exceptionally well.


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