Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orchids, Revisited

Do any of my blog readers remember my report of an unseasonably hot day in March when my friend Sue spotted some unknown seed pods along Bog Meadow Nature Trail near Saratoga?

Well, our friend the orchid enthusiast Andrew Lane Gibson recognized my photo of it right away, and he informed us that this was most likely the remains of a little orchid called Loesel's Twayblade (Liparis loeselii).  This is not a rare orchid in New York, but it's one I had never seen before, so I determined to return in mid-June to see if I could find it in bloom.  I knew it would be hard to spot by summer, what with tall grasses and other plants grown up around it, so I tied red trail tape on the tree at whose base it was growing.  And this week, hearing from friends that Loesel's Twayblade was blooming at other sites in the area, I returned to Bog Meadow Trail.  And wonder of wonders, I found it in bloom, right in the spot I had marked!

I guess you can see how difficult this tiny orchid would have been to find without that trail tape, hiding among many much bigger plants.

Here's a little closer view, the newly blooming orchid right next to the seed pod from last year's bloom.  I found just two plants.

Granted, this is not the showiest orchid among New York's 60-some native orchids, but it is kind of interesting, in that it holds its flowers facing upwards.  Andrew told us that this is in order for raindrops to splash out its pollen bundles, perhaps to land on other Loesel's Twayblades growing nearby.  The flower's lack of color or scent are not exactly inviting to visiting pollinators, so it has devised this alternative strategy.

Here's a much showier native New York orchid blooming now, the beautiful Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides).  This orchid does attract pollinators with its vivid pink color and raspberry-like perfume.

Rose Pogonia is among the showiest of our native orchids, as well as one of our most common. We found it abundantly scattered along the shore of the Hudson River north of Warrensburg this week, when I and my friends in the Thursday Naturalists group visited a remarkably rich botanical site called the Ice Meadows.

The Ice Meadows is notable for the huge heaps of a particular kind of ice (called frazil) that pile up here in the winter, creating a distinctive habitat that promotes the growth of rare plants while suppressing the growth of woody plants and discouraging the incursion of invasive species.  Some of the plants that grow here are among the rarest in New York State. One of those, called Sticky Tofieldia (Triantha glutinosa), although listed as an endangered species, was blooming abundantly last Thursday. Abundant, but also quite small!  If you peer closely at this photo, you might see the tiny red dots of sticky hairs on the stem, the inspiration for this flower's common name.

Not yet in flower, but vividly colored nonetheless, was the Spatulate-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia) that clung to the rocks around little spring-fed pools.

If the flowers of Creeping Spearwort (Ranunculus reptans) were not so shiny and bright-yellow, we would probably never notice them, tiny as they are, only about a quarter-inch across and sprawling across the rocks and sand at the water's edge.

We had no trouble at all noticing the big red blooms of Northern Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) protruding above the masses of green plants crowding a fen-like area.

The wild roses were also easy to spot.  They obviously had no trouble at all attracting pollinators,  with their large showy blooms and heady fragrance that filled the warm June air.

The rose's leaves had also attracted another insect, the Spiny Rose Gall Wasp (Diplolepis bicolor), whose larvae are residing within each of these spiny red spheres.

There would probably be many more insects inhabiting this area, if not for the ample population of frogs, including this emerald-green Leopard Frog, patrolling the Ice Meadows and consuming the flying creatures.


threecollie said...

Oh, my, the wonders that you see! Delightful!

Anonymous said...

Great postings. Thanks for taking the time to share the photos and all of the interesting things that you see.
John O'C