A Few More Orchids

A week before the pilgrimage to find large whorled pogonia, I’d found a few nice stands of showy orchis. It’s fairly common in dry-to-moist woodlands of the Maryland Piedmont, but it’s on the RTE lists of Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. I noticed while doing a quick web search that the name “orchis” (with the “s”) isn’t used often anymore; now it’s called “showy orchid”. This species used to be known as Orchis spectabilis, but recent taxonomic changes now have it as Galearis spectabilis. The common name “showy orchis” is just a translation of the old Latin name. You’ll find it under that name in older wildflower guides.

At any rate, this one grows just two thick, wide leaves at ground level, then sends up a single shoot bearing a dozen or more purple and white flowers. All-white forms are also known, but uncommon.

Also blooming about now is Cypripedium acaule. Like showy orchis, this plant produces two basal leaves, though they stand more upright; however, there’s only a single spectacular flower per plant. Pink lady’s slipper (aka moccasin flower) is fairly common (for an orchid) in moist woodlands throughout its range, but is listed in Georgia, New York, Illinois, and Tennessee. I’ve found it on acidic soils, near Vaccinium and other species in the Ericaceae.

A few days ago I ventured out again (more about that soon), and unexpectedly found a single specimen of yet another orchid, Aplectrum hyemale. Putty root, also known as Adam and Eve, is hibernal: each plant produces one leaf in the autumn that persists through the winter and into spring, then dies before the plant sends up a single shoot that bears about 15 flowers. According to the Go Orchids site, putty root seems to be found near sugar maple and beech trees. I’ve only seen it in deep shade, which makes it difficult to photograph.

Most (or perhaps all) terrestrial orchids in our area require complex associations with soil fungi in order to live, which is one reason why they aren’t widespread. As a result, orchids poached from wild areas usually die within a year of being transplanted.

further reading about orchids and mycorrhizal fungi:
Orchids and Their Mycorrhizal Fungi
Mycorrhizal fungi affect orchid distribution and population dynamics
Orchids Are as Finicky as the Fungi That Nourish Them

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