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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - November 29, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Availability of orchids native to Austin, TX area
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty plants, I'm looking for orchids native to the Austin Texas area. I'd like to incorporate them into my pond and waterfall garden. Can you give me some names. I'd also like to know where to purchase them. Thank you.

ANSWER:

The following list of orchids occurring in Travis County was compiled from the Travis County Flora Project list from the Austin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas and from Wild Orchids of Texas by Joe and Ann Orto Liggio.

Spring Coral Root, Corallorhiza wisteriana
Chatterbox Orchid, Epipactus gigantea
Glass Mountain Crested Coralroot, Hexalectris nitida
Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes cernua
Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis
Great Plains Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes magnicamporum
Marsh Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes odorata

Although none of the species from Travis County is listed on the Endangered and Threatened Plants in Texas and the United States, this doesn't mean that they are common. All require a somewhat specialized habitat and are restricted to that habitat. Also, none of them is particularly large and showy like the tropical orchids; thus, you are likely to have a difficult time finding them available commercially. None of the native nurseries listed for Texas in our National Suppliers Directory that had web sites with catalogs showed any native orchids for sale. There are, however, nurseries without web sites, but with telephone numbers, that you could contact. The Native North American Orchid Discussion List has a link to "Sources" for native orchids—("legal and ethical sources of these orchids that grow best wild and free"). There are no sources in or near Texas, however.

The Liggios in "Wild Orchids of Texas" (see above) point out that loss of habitat and careless or unprincipled collectors are contributing to the decline in numbers of wild orchids. They also point out that the wild orchids are very difficult to transplant successfully. Consequently, if you do find commercially available native orchids, please consider buying them only if they were nursery grown and not collected from the wild.

Due to the relative rarity and the demanding soil requirements of our native orchids, they are really best appreciated where they pop up and surprise us in the wild!

 

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