Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Orchid Adventures!

 Plant lovers are some of the nicest people I know.  When they make an exciting new discovery, they can't wait to share their excitement with other plant-loving friends, and in many cases they'll take you right there to see their treasures for yourself.  That was what Dan Wall (pictured above) did for me on Monday, when he ushered me into a secret bog to lay my own eyes on what may be one of the rarest plants in the state: the Two-colored Fringed Orchid (Platanthera x bicolor), a hybrid of the White Fringed Orchid (P. blephariglottis) and the Orange Fringed Orchid (P. ciliaris).  That's the flower Dan is holding in the photo above.

Here's a closer view of the Two-colored Fringed Orchid, with its florets colored a distinctive yellow-orange but with snowy-white lower lips exhibiting the delicate fringe that suggested the common name of all these orchids.

And here is the White Fringed Orchid, with florets obviously similar in shape but colored a snowy white.

Here was an area of the bog where the two orchids grew side-by-side, displaying their obvious color difference at a glance.  I can't believe I failed to notice this difference on my other trips to this bog, where I come every year to admire the beauty of dozens and dozens of the White Fringed Orchids that thrive at this site.  The white ones certainly predominate, with many, many more whites than bi-colors throughout the bog. (But nobody seems to know how the Orange Fringed Orchid genes got into this bog to hybridize with the White Fringed Orchids, since nobody recalls ever seeing them here.  A botanical mystery!)

Two orchids down, one more to go!  Our next destination was the Pack Demonstration Forest a few miles north of Warrensburg, where Dan was eager to photograph the tiny little orchid called Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera repens). Dan is putting together a book about New York's native orchids, using photographs of as many of the 60 species he can find,  as well as some of his beautiful watercolor paintings.  He had found this species of Goodyera here last week, but it was not yet completely in bloom, so the hunt was on today to find at least one with its flowers open.

Aha!  Mission accomplished!  What?  You mean you can't see the flower that Dan is aiming his camera at?

That would be understandable.  Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain is a very small plant!

But what this species of Goodyera lacks in size, it sure made up for in numbers today!  We found dozens and dozens of them, all quite close to the Nature Trail that leads through this wondrous old-growth forest, with ancient White Pines towering nearly 150 feet over our heads.  When Dan was here earlier, he found very few of these orchids, but they would be very easy to miss when not in bloom.  Today, their white florets made the plants quite visible against the dark forest floor.

Goodyera repens's leaves are quite showy, too, with vivid patterns marking the dark green basal leaves.  But the leaves tend to lie nearly hidden among the fallen pine needles.

Our orchid goals accomplished, we continued along the trail, enjoying the many forest-floor plants we could see from the path, including these vividly red Bunchberry fruits (Cornus canadensis).

These dainty little flowers belonged to a plant called Dwarf Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea alpina).

Thanks to some heavy rains that relieved our near-drought conditions this month, we found a number of interesting fungi in this woods.  I particularly enjoyed this rusty-red Painted Suillus (Suillus spraguei) nestled among the New York Ferns and White Wood Sorrel, Indian Cucumber Root,  and Partridgeberry leaves.

But the Hallelujah Chorus of spectacular color awaited us near the end of the trail, when we came upon abundant stands of Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) adorning a pond shore and creek bank.

Such vivid blasts of saturated red, the individual spikes of crimson blooms massed together to amplify their impact, seemed more than I could take in with just my eyes.  It almost seemed as if these flowers were singing a joyful, booming, many-voiced chorus of colorful gorgeousness.

Awesome! Amazing!  Spectacular!

Wow!  Just . . WOW!!!


Woody Meristem said...

There's a fen in northeastern Pennsylvania with an abundance of white-fringed/yellow-fringed orchid hybrids. Supposedly there are only a very few places where the two species hybridize since their blooming times are normally somewhat different. Congratulations on getting photos of the hybrids.

Alana said...

The way you talk about cardinal flower is similar to how I feel about Royal Catchfly (Silene regia). It is a rare late Summer prairie plant in Ohio and it is maybe more red more than cardinal flower, but both are very red.