Of course, our state botanists had never had a chance to lay their eyes on a live Pringle's Autumn Coralroot (at least, not here in New York). But they knew of someone who probably had, a man who is nationally known as "the" expert on this particular taxon. So they sent my photos to Professor John Freudenstein, Chair of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at Ohio State University, who is also director of the herbarium there. Professor Freudenstein confirmed my friend Dan's suspicions. Here's one of my photos Professor Freudenstein observed to reach his conclusion (another is posted above):
Here's what Professor Freudenstein concluded: "The photos . . . appear to me to be of what I would call var. pringlei. The [flowers] are clearly chasmogamous and fit within the circumscription of var. pringlei."
Thank you, Professor Freudenstein! I confess I will have to study up on what those botanical terms exactly mean, but first I have to come back down to earth. And then, when it's time (which should be mid-September), Dan and I must return to where I first found these orchids, ascertain that the plants are still there, and finally make sure they receive the protection they deserve as one of our state's rarest plants. The one location in Moreau Lake State Park where I once found more than 30 of them has been buried under several feet of leaves that were dumped atop them, and they haven't reappeared at that site for several years. It was that population I photographed for the photos above. Here's hoping the orchids revive there, once the leaf piles are removed, but I also know where some others appeared in the past. Now I can't wait to go find them!