Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Plant Buddies of the Piney Woods

Sometimes, when you see one plant, you know you are bound to find some others that share a particular habitat.  That is certainly the case when I see the glossy leaves and dangling pink/white flowers of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), as I did today in a piney woods along the shore of Mud Pond at Moreau.

Sure enough, I only had to glance around nearby before my eyes lit on the very similar flowers dangling above the distinctly striped leaves of Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata).  I was actually a little surprised to see these two closely related wildflowers blooming at the same time, since the Pipsissewa usually blooms a bit earlier than the Striped Wintergreen.  But there they were, both still in perfect bloom, both sharing the same dry pine-needle-  and oak-leaf-littered forest floor, the preferred habitat for both species.

If not for the difference in their leaves, I would have a hard time identifying each plant from its flowers alone, since both plants bear very similar waxy-white flowers with bulbous glossy-green pistils surrounded by these odd little tubular stamens.  And both dangle those flowers downward, so you would never see these fascinating reproductive structures if you didn't stoop down and turn the flowers upward.  These happen to be the flowers of Striped Wintergreen.

Seeing both of these Chimaphila species blooming today alerted me to search around for a third plant that often shares this same territory and blooms at about the same time.  And once again, my hunch was rewarded, for sure enough, a number of these little orchids called Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata) were lifting their spikes of small white florets above the pine-needle-carpeted forest floor.

I find it nearly impossible to make my camera focus on both this orchid's leaves and flowers in the same shot.  So I moved in close to take a clearer photo of the small hooded florets.

I also took a separate shot of the typical basal leaves.  There were many more of these basal rosettes scattered around the forest floor than there were of plants with protruding flower stalks.  But I certainly felt very lucky to have found any of the flowers at all.  These are orchids, after all.  Fickle flowers.  They rarely reappear in the same place each year.  But your chances of finding them improve if their buddies like Striped Wintergreen and Pipsissewa are growing nearby.


threecollie said...

How lovely! As we take to the woods next week, I know I will think of you often as I wonder what all the new plants I am seeing are called. I always liked knowing things like that, but you have opened my eyes a great deal more to the plant life around me. Thanks

Woody Meristem said...

Very nice photos; and yes, orchids certainly are fickle bloomers.