Friday, June 1, 2012

Another Day, Another Rare Orchid

I just can't believe my good fortune!  I got to lay eyes on two of New York's rarest orchids in just the past two days.  Yesterday, my friend Evelyn Greene escorted me to a secret pond to see those Arethusas, and today, Evelyn's friend Bob Duncan escorted me on a secret trail to find an even rarer orchid, the Hooker's Orchis (Platanthera hookeri).  And it wasn't even hard to get to the site, although we did have to balance carefully across a beaver dam or two and scramble over some blowdown.




Actually, I was grateful to find those trees across the trail, since it made the trail temporarily inaccessible to such motorized vehicles as snowmobiles and ATVs, which had been driving right over this patch of rare orchids before Evelyn Greene convinced New York's conservation department to re-route the trail.  I'm sure the motorists never noticed the orchids as they rode over them, since they're hard enough to see even when you are searching for them, well camouflaged as they are by their green coloration.




So what's so remarkable about such a plain-colored plant?  For one thing, this endangered species is becoming increasingly rare, with only two populations currently known in all of New York State, according to what I read on the New York Natural Heritage website.  Also, the USDA plant information site lists this plant as threatened, endangered, or extirpated in nearly all the states surrounding New York.  So the chance of ever finding one is almost impossible, if you don't know where to look.  And then, of course, the flowers are actually quite interesting, although much easier to see with your eyes than they are to photograph.




We had to use all kinds of tricks to get our automatic-focus cameras to focus on the flowers and not the forest floor behind them.  And I finally gave up trying to capture both flower spikes and leaves in the same photograph.




Placing a hand behind often works to bring the flower into focus.  I definitely wanted to capture the long spurs and sharply curving lips that distinguish this orchid.  I guess it's appropriate that a flower called Hooker's should display a blossom with hooks like these -- although the plant got its name from a 19th-century English gardener named William Hooker, not from the shape of its flowers.



What luck, that my camera actually cooperated to focus on the convoluted structure of the flower's interior.




After spending a good long while admiring our orchids and attempting to photograph them, we continued our hike to the shore of an isolated pond (which shall remain nameless), where we sat to enjoy a picnic lunch.



While exploring the shore of the pond, Bob noticed this dragonfly clinging to the bark of a tree.  I wonder if it was very recently emerged from the nymph, since it made no attempt to fly away when I came near with my camera lens.  Such a pretty pink color! Will it change as the dragonfly matures?  Any guesses as to its species?   Update:  Bob sent a note suggesting this might be an immature Chalky Corporal.  There sure were lots of them flying around the pond.


8 comments:

Ellen Rathbone said...

I remain jealous.

Woodswalker said...

Ellen, I have you to thank for introducing me to Evelyn, who introduced me to her nature-nut friends and so many wonderful botanical adventures. So it's not fair that you aren't coming along with us to find these rare flowers. But I'll bet you can find some rare ones out there in Michigan.

catharus said...

Yeh, jealous describes it pretty well, and yet I still can share in your excitement of discovery...

A.L. Gibson said...

Jealousy doesn't even touch the surface for me! This is extirpated in Ohio and is becoming an increasingly rarer orchid across its range. I have hunted it for years and the ONLY time I find it was on the Bruce peninsula last summer to find a deer had clipped the flower stalks. I was so bummed. I'm so thankful for your experience and letting me see this orchid almost first hand! Someday soon I'll see and photograph this beauty...even if it means coming all the way up to your neck of the woods!

Woodswalker said...

catharus, thanks for stopping by. I hope someday we will share some exciting botanical discoveries together in person. Until then, I am so glad to know you are with me via my blog.

OK, A.L., last week of May, 2013, let's make a date to go find this orchid together. Let's hope it stays healthy, since there were only 4 plants, probably half of all that remain in the entire state of NY. My friend Evelyn told me that until the ATV trail was rerouted, this population had declined to a single plant. NY Natural Heritage Program believes the decline across the state is probably due to acid rain.

A.L. Gibson said...

You've got yourself a deal :)

Adirondackcountrygal said...

Very beautiful, you are so lucky!

hikeagiant2 said...

too cool!