Friday, September 21, 2012

On the Road for Spiranthes ochroleuca

How far would I travel for the chance to find a new flower?  Well, I'm not sure, but on Thursday I sped 50 miles up the Northway to meet my friend Bob Duncan, who told me he could show me some Yellow Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes ochroleuca).  And this is not even a rare plant.  Just one I'd never seen before.  Or maybe I had but simply assumed it was common old ordinary Nodding Ladies' Tresses (S. cernua).  They sure look a lot alike.

But Bob (whose judgement I trust) assured me that this was a separate species, one that grows in drier habitats than does S. cernua, and usually blooms just a little bit later.   Here he examines one we found growing along a woodsy back road near Brant Lake.

Bob pointed out the salient characteristics:  the pale yellow cast to the flower's throat, the abruptly curling lower petal, and the sharply upturned curled-back white bracts at the side of the flower.  I would say that it has a very frilly appearance.

Here's a photo of S. cernua for comparison, noting that they are perhaps a little less curly and that their flowers are a purer white, with little or no yellow coloration.   But I would say these two species look very much alike,  and without Bob's guidance I would never have identified S. ochroleuca by myself.

There were other attractions in that Brant Lake woods, among them a number of interesting fungi that had sprung up following Tuesday's heavy rains.  Here, a nice little clump of Yellow Spindle Coral glows in a beam of sunlight.

I couldn't identify these tiny white mushrooms, but I thought they were awfully cute.

It's too bad I didn't find these Black Trumpets when they were fresh, since I've heard they are quite good to eat.  These were too far gone to pick, close to melting into the earth, some of them being consumed by other, smaller fungi.

These big brown-gilled mushrooms were also past their prime, but they still displayed a bulbous stalk circled by red rings that made them readily identifiable as Braceleted Cort (Cortinarius armillatus).

Oops!   Sorry, little fella.  The morning was chilly and this little Red Eft was trying to stay warm beneath the large cap of one of the Braceleted Corts.  We put it back down in the leaf litter and covered it up with the mushroom once again.  I know these juvenile Spotted Newts are so cute that it's hard not to want to hold them,  but the normal acid of our skin can injure their delicate skin, so it's important not to touch them with bare hands.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

Color me jealous, Jackie! I've searched high and low for this species throughout Ohio and have yet to find any. I have two recorded locations for it as well but neither turned up anything this year :/ I guess this is just another one of those orchids I've never seen that will have to wait until next year...

Lovely photos and narrative as usual :)

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Oh gosh, Andrew, how would you be able to distinguish it from S. magnicamporum? When Bob showed this Spiranthes to me, I thought it looked just like the Great Plains Ladies' Tresses you featured on a recent blog post. Anyway, we were lucky to find this one, since the original specimens Bob took me to see had disappeared overnight.