Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Orchids Are Up!

I had a very pleasant task today:  to show noted wildflower author Carol Gracie and her botanist husband Scott Mori the secret passage into this wonderful bog where hundred of Grass Pinks were blooming.  My friend and fellow wildflower enthusiast Bob Duncan also came along, and we must have made quite a curious sight, all us grown people crawling about the bog mat, cameras clicking.

 Carol has a particular interest in the relationship between flowers and their pollinators,  so she and Scott spent quite a bit of the time crouching among the Grass Pinks, watching to see what bugs might arrive to dine.  I can't remember which one of them (or was it Bob?) alerted me to this Katydid nymph perched on a Grass Pink bloom, because I forgot everything else as I focused on watching the insect completely devour the hairy part of the flower, its tiny jaws going nom nom nom!.

I, too, had a quest in visiting this bog today, because I wanted, I needed to find the White Fringed Orchids  I knew, I just KNEW grew in here.  I had promised a fellow orchid enthusiast who was coming here all the way from Ohio that we would find them here easily.   But up until today I hadn't yet seen any sign of them.  My friend Evelyn had assured me she had seen them up already, so Bob and I set to searching, and lo and behold, we found one!  Shining like a beacon it was, lit up by the sun against the dark shade of the shrubbery.

That same bright sun and dark shadows made it hard to get a clear photo, but I think this one is clear enough to show that distinctive fringed lower lip that gives this lovely orchid its common name.
Its scientific name is Platanthera blephariglottis. (Got that?)  We also found quite a few stalks still in tight green bud, so there should be plenty of flowers in bloom when my friend from Ohio arrives next week.

Carol is a wonderful photographer of flowers, as the illustrations for her two most recent books can attest.  (Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States and Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History)  Not every wildflower photographer is so lucky as to have a husband who's not only a botanist (Scott works with the New York Botanical Garden), but also a very helpful photography assistant.  I'll bet that, thanks to the filtered light, she got a much clearer photo than I did of that White Fringed Orchid.

At least I got a pretty clear photo of one of that orchid's pollen bundles, called pollinia, which Scott extracted from one of the flowers and held up on his finger for all of us to see.

Unlike most other flowers, which have powdery pollen, orchids hold their pollen together in 2 waxy bundles connected by a thread, which are attached to a sticky pad on the orchid's reproductive structure.  A visiting insect gets stuck with these pollinia when it lands on the flower.  When that insect visits another plant's flower, this same reproductive structure, combining both pollen-producing and pollen-receiving functions, then snatches the pollinia from that insect and fertilizes itself.  (If I didn't get that quite right, I hope some botanist who reads this will correct me.)

After a while, it started to get pretty hot in that bog, and I had neglected to bring any water, so I was extra delighted to find lots of sweet juicy Highbush Blueberries getting ripe.

There were water-filled Pitcher Plants here and there, but I don't think I would want to drink that water, filled as it was with the insects trapped by the slippery sides of the plant's tubular pitcher.

This Monarch Butterfly could drink the nectar out of the Common Milkweed flowers by sipping it through its proboscis.  I couldn't quench my thirst that way, although I could certainly drink in this milkweed's delicious fragrance.


hikeagiant2 said...

How wonderful! ... and thanks for the book reference ... I have Amazon points burning a hole in my e-wallet ;-). I will have to check it out! The photos, as always, are exquisite - I have enjoyed catching up!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Greetings, hikeagiant! By all means, take a look at Carol's books; they are so beautiful, as well as extremely informative. It's been fun following your travels in England, but it's good to have you back. Thanks for all the comments you left on so many previous posts. Enjoy the summer in your mountains.