CPC Plant Profile: Carter's Orchid
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Plant Profile

Carter's Orchid (Basiphyllaea corallicola)

An unusual open flower of Basiphyllaea corallicola in a Miami-Dade County preserve. This species usually has cleistogamous (closed) flowers. Photo Credit: J. Possley
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Orchidaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 902322
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 12/07/2021

The Carter's orchid is a diminutive terrestrial orchid that is listed as endangered by the state of Florida. The perennial herb has 1-2 linear, basal leaves up to 5.5 inches and long stems with sheathing small leaves. Flower stalks are leafless but have small scattered bracts. Flowers occur in wide  clusters of 3-10 flowers at the top of the flowering stalk and are both small and inconspicuous. Its sepals and petals are yellow-green, nearly enclosing a bright pink, 3-lobed lip. Fruits grow as an erect capsule (FNAI 2000). It was first discovered by Joe Jackson Carter, who was a part of a group surveying a route for the extension of the railroad back in 1903. The type specimen was not collected for about three years and was not seen again for more than 60 years in its native habitat until the late 60's (Martin 2001).  Flowers occur in the fall (September/October) in the Miami populations, but in winter (January/February) in Everglades National Park in The Bahamas (Possley, pers. obs.).

Participating Institutions
  • 10/17/2020
  • Living Collection

Fairchild maintains a small ex situ collection.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Propagation Research

In 2017 Fairchild began to investigate the mycorrizal symbiont(s) of Carter's orchid. Fungi will be cultured and identified using molecular techniques.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Seeds are in long-term storage at NLGRP.

  • 10/17/2020
  • Tissue Culture

CREW maintains some material in tissue culture

Clarice Mendoza
  • 01/04/2018

Gann and Woodmansee (2002) noted the need for more study into this species' critical threats and their removal and how much impact the removal would be on the quality of the surrounding environment. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory suggested the performance of prescribed fire burns every 3-7 years to experiment with its effectiveness, eradication of invasive plant species, and begin purchasing land in order to protect parts of this endemic plant's remaining native range (Treher 2015).

J. Possley
  • 11/05/2017

Improved horticulture methods need to be developed.  Additional seed banking needs to be conducted, representing the entire species' range.

J. Possley
  • 11/05/2017

Threats to Carter's orchid include invasive species, fire exclusion, debris piling, and maintenance activities.

J. Possley
  • 11/05/2017

It is difficult to assess population size, as subterranean pseudobulbs of this tiny terrestrial orchid are leafless for much of the year, and some percentage of individuals do not produce leaves or flowers during the growing season.  Fairchild estimates that 500-800 individuals are present in two Miami-Dade preserves.  The number of individuals in Everlgades National Park and the National Key Deer Refuge are not known.

J. Possley
  • 11/05/2017

In 2017 Fairchild began to investigate the mycorrizal symbiont(s) of Carter's orchid.  Fungi will be cultured and identified using molecular techniques. 

J. Possley
  • 11/05/2017

Fairchild maintains a small ex situ collection.  CREW maintains some material in tissue culture.  Seeds are in long-term storage at NLGRP.

Clarice Mendoza
  • 11/02/2017

High occurrences of the introduced exotic species Schinus terebinthifolius, or Brazilian peppertree, has been deemed as a threat to B. corallicola. This was found, according to Gann's 2009 final report of rare plant monitoring efforts on Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known only from Dade and Monroe counties in south Florida, this species had not been seen for over 60 years following a collection made in 1906 near Miami. However, since 1992, it has been found at several locations.


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Taxon Basiphyllaea corallicola
Authority (Small) Ames
Family Orchidaceae
CPC Number 9280
ITIS 43493
Common Names Carter's orchid
Associated Scientific Names Basiphyllaea angustifolia | Carteria corallicola | Basiphyllaea corallicola
Distribution Carter's orchid is known to occur in the pine rockland environment of Southern Florida, mostly in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties (Treher 2015). Several occurrences have been described as locally common in Puerto Rico, specifically the Maricao Forest Reserve. Historically, this taxon is native to Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (Ackerman 1995, 2014, Correll et. al. 1982, Gann 2015, Nir 2000, Llamacho et. al. 2005).
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida SNR

Subtropical to tropical dry shrublands, pine rocklands, and margins of tropical hardwood hammock are the preferred habitat of this member of the orchid family. It is typically found growing out of coral rock pockets and limestone crevices with sandy substrates and leaf litter (Treher 2015). It reportedly flowers only after a fire disturbance, depending on its water-storing base to support through the following drought (Martin 2001), however surveys in Miami by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden have shown that a proportion of the population flowers readily without fire.

Ecological Relationships

The canopy dominating this taxon's native habitat in the Bahamas, Everglades National Park, and the Lower Keys is comprised of mostly South Florida slash pine, however the populations in Miami-Dade County preserves are found in hammock edges adjacent to present or former pine rocklands, wherein, interestingly, populations do not appear to extend into the open pineland. Species typical of hammock margins (e.g. Metopium toxiferumNectandra coriacea, Ardisia escallanioides, et al.) are prevalent in these habitats in addition to live oaks and occasional pines. Other rare endemic species found as neighbors to this taxon include smooth strongbark trees, Florida bully shrubs, and southern lady's tresses orchids (Gann et.al. 2009).

As with most orchids, Carter's orchid is thought to be closely associated with fungal symbionts (mycorrhizae).  Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is studying fungal symbionts of Carter's orchid and other native orchids as part of the Million Orchid Project.

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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