Monday, April 7, 2014

Flower variability "in situ" in a Psychilis macconnelliae Sauleda 1988 population in a small area of coastal habitat in St. Croix

On April 6, 2014, I had the privilege to visit a reserve in St. Croix that hosts a population of Psychilis macconnelliae.  The dry coastal vegetation in which this orchid lives is composed mainly of low woody shrubs and scattered trees.  This type of habitat is hardly welcoming, with many thorny plants and vines that make it at times almost impassable.   The orchids were growing close to the beach.  The strong wind from the sea made taking good photos a difficult challenge as it would shake the flowers even when pains were taken to keep the inflorescence still.    The constant, and at times strong, wind keeps the local temperature from approaching the furnance like feeling one gets in other Caribbean islands in similar habitat but in less windy locations.  The temperature was in the eighties at the moment I visited.  

Because moving in the bush was not a pleasant or easy undertaking, I was only able to see the plants in a very limited area in the time I had to look for them.  However, in the small patch I was able to explore I found many plants.  Happily I was even able to locate plants I had seen during a visit I made last year.  The variability of the flowers surprised me, one would expect that plants growing in such proximity of each other would have flowers that would look very similar.  But this was not the case.  Every parameter of the flowers seemed to show some degree of variation among the ones I photographed.  One thing I can attest, these plants are indeed quite successful at attracting pollinators, seedpods were everywhere.  Here are photos of some of the flowers I saw.

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