A while back I posted a photo (here) of one of the heavily-laden tangerine trees in the yard. I noted that in my eight years living here I’d never seen a flower on the tree despite its prolific production of fruit.
However, last week, when I was up on a ladder harvesting the last of the current crop of fruit, I finally saw the flowers in the top photo. Then, when I’d knocked the last of the fruit down, I saw (bottom photo) one tangerine had a bit of branch still attached which bore, not only a flower, but also a leaf bearing a cluster of butterfly eggs.
I still don’t know how I’ve missed seeing these flowers before. They’re small, but not minuscule, and they have a lovely scent. While I wouldn’t expect to see flowers on higher branches, the lowest branches are at eye level and below. And I still haven’t seen bees and butterflies around the trees, though the eggs clearly show they do visit.
The truth is, I get to cheat on Bushboy’s Last on the Card photo challenge (more responses here). I generally see his post in the late afternoon here since he’s in Australia and many hours ahead of me in Hawaii. That was the case today and when I looked, I found that, for various reasons, I hadn’t taken any photos in more than a week.
So I poked my head outside and immediately thought of the tangerine trees in the yard. One is so heavily laden with fruit that a couple of branches are scraping the ground. Despite the trees looking to be in terrible condition, they fruit prolifically. An interesting fact is that the only flower I’ve ever seen on these trees was an orchid growing at the base of one of the branches. What’s that about?
Apparently, there are around 8 billion different kinds of orchid. That, of course, doesn’t include hybrids. In my efforts to identify this flower, I tried all kinds of descriptions in my online search engine – ‘white orchid, purple spots,’ ‘epiphyte orchid, white with purple,’ ‘white and purple epiphyte.”
No matter what I tried I didn’t see anything that matched. I rifled through books at the library without success. Finally, I found a book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids edited by Alec Pridgeon, that also failed to solve my problem. But the photos in the book did seem to indicate that this flower might be an oncidium orchid.
So I searched for ‘oncidium orchid, white with purple spots’ and voila, there it was. Of course, this being orchids, some photos were identified as ‘White Wonderland.’ Others referred to it as ‘Aliceara Winter Wonderland “White Fairy.”’ I plumped for ‘Degarmoara Winter Wonderland “White Fairy”’ because that appeared to be the more numerous choice. In the world of orchids, there seem to be varying opinions as to which plant fits in which species.
Now the only question is, how did this orchid come to be growing deep in the branches of a tangerine tree?
Crab spiders (also known as spiny-backed spiders) came to Hawaii in 1985. They spread through all the islands and are especially numerous here in the winter months. They build dense thickets of webs such as these between two tangerine trees. They look threatening, but aren’t particularly. People do get bitten, mostly if a spider falls on them or gets lodged in clothing.
I usually encounter them when I miss spotting a web and end up with it wrapped around my head. Their webs, which often span a 10 or 20 foot gap, seem especially strong and sticky.