Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Looking for Loesel's Twayblade

Why do I do this to myself? It was so hot and humid today, my glasses were swimming off my nose before I had gone ten yards along the east end of Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail.  This early part of the trail moves along an open marsh with no trees shading the path, and the deerflies and mosquitoes didn't mind at all being baked by the sun as they sought my sweat-drenched flesh.  But I was on a quest.  A wee little orchid called Loesel's Twayblade (Liparis loeselii) should be blooming now along this end of the trail, and I was determined to find it.

Even though I have seen this orchid here many times over the past few years, I am always anxious about finding it once more.  By the time it begins to bloom in June, all other trailside plants will be dwarfing it, and since it's a very small, slender, grass-colored plant, it sure isn't easy to spy.  This photo of a Royal Fern amid its surrounding greenery can give you an idea of what the habitat looks like:

As I walked along, I did enjoy all the other wildflowers that caught my eye.  The flowers of Marsh Bedstraw (Galium palustre) are even tinier than those of the orchid I sought, but being bright-white, they shone like tiny stars from the dark greens along the trail, this native wildflower's weak stems sprawling amid the other plants.

Another bright-white flower, the Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) was also abundant along the trail.

The showiest flowers today were the big clusters adorning abundant Smooth Arrowwood shrubs (Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum).   I was delighted today not only by the beauty of this shrub's flowers, but also by the healthy appearance of the sharply toothed leaves.  For several years, this species of viburnum was a favorite target of the invasive Viburnum Leaf Beetle, and much of the regional population was completely defoliated.  I can only hope that the healthiness of this particular population is an indication that that beetle has done its worst, and that somehow the threat has diminished.

I often find seedpods as interesting as their flowers, and that's certainly the case with Spotted Geranium seedpods (Geranium maculatum). Observing those long star-tipped protrusions, it's obvious why this plant is sometimes referred to as a Cranesbill.  I always think these seedpods look like something that might have been drawn by Dr. Seuss.

When the unique, star-shaped seedpods of Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) split open, we can see all the seeds nestled within, like peas in a pod.

As for colorful flowers, they were pretty rare along the trail today.  But the rosy-red new leaves of this sapling shrub of Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) provided plenty of color of their own.

And the brilliant glossy-red of this ripe Dwarf Raspberry (Rubus pubescens) shone like a sparkling ruby amid its low green leaves.

When I reached the spot on the trail where I sensed I must be close to where I had found the Loesel's Twayblade in other years, I was dismayed to discover that the long-established dirt mounds that used to serve as landmarks had been leveled, probably to expedite mowing along the trail.  But soon my searching feet found the remnants of a rotting railroad tie, now buried in mosses and grasses, that had also signaled the right site over the years. Pushing aside the grasses and horsetails, I soon spied not only this year's glossy leaves and flower stalk in full bloom, but also a stalk of last year's tan seedpods still in evidence next to this year's plant. (The rust-red color of the stream at this site is probably caused by the presence of iron in the soil along the stream bottom.)

All the hot, sweaty, bug-bitten discomforts of today's search diminished beside the delight I felt when I looked at this photo.  It is very difficult for my camera to clearly focus on a wispy green flower against a green background, but today I finally got a photo of this orchid's flowers that was clear enough to display the intricate structures of the florets.  While still not perfect, this photo does display the tiny yellow dots of the flower's sticky pollen bundles (called pollinia), a feature that is unique to orchids. When an insect lands on these florets in search of nectar, the pollen bundles will stick to the insect, to be carried off to the next orchid nearby, where that orchid's distinctive receptor organ will snatch the bundles to achieve its own pollination.  Very cool!

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

I'm sure I remember being shown that plant - once, by a botanist who was a lot better than I. You got a GREAT picture!