Two Years Old


Happy 2nd Birthday to my blog! I’m celebrating by changing the look. Also by upgrading the account. OK, actually it’s not celebrating; I’ve uploaded so many pictures that I ran out of space, so I had to upgrade.

young fronds of ebony spleenwort


I’m also celebrating by re-posting some favorite photos.  Enjoy.



wild stonecrop












flowering dogwood






enchanter’s nightshade

















cranefly orchid





purple-headed sneezeweed





bee leaving goldenrod



Back to regular blog posts tomorrow!

Orchid Update: New Hope

Two months ago I wrote about finding only a single cranefly orchid, despite seeing dozens the year before.  After posting that I asked a few experts; the consensus was that deer browse had caused the disappearance.

One day last week I was poking about looking for asters and goldenrods that may have started blooming after the recent rains.  I didn’t find many, but I did find this:


Zoom in and look closely.  In the center of the picture is a purplish leaf partly unfurled among all the fallen tree leaves.  That’s a new leaf of cranefly.  There were more, but I didn’t get close, for fear of trampling something (this picture was taken from pretty far away), and quickly withdrew, as there were people about and I didn’t want anyone taking an interest in my interest.  There are poachers in this area.

This year there were no flowering stems in this stand.  Clearly the plants are growing again, but how many seasons of abuse can they take?  I’m considering contacting the park service and asking them to put fencing around this little patch.  It’s an area that sees lots of human activity as well as deer pressure, but I wonder if drawing attention to this patch may do more harm than good.

Feeling hopeful after finding the cranefly, I went over to the place where I saw puttyroot last year, and this:


Yes, two new puttyroot leaves.  Again, that’s a zoom-in from a distance.  Last thing I want is to cause damage in my enthusiasm.  I can admire from afar.

Cranefly Orchid


aka elfin spur
Tipularia discolor



You may recall that I’m a little over the moon about orchids, and especially about cranefly orchid.  I know of three distinct patches near each other in one of my usual hunting areas, and I keep an eye on those areas year ’round.

Some time late this spring, I noticed that all the leaves had gone.  It seemed a little early for their annual disappearing act, but I’m not an expert so I shrugged it off and kept watching.

By the last week in July I was getting concerned.  The flower stalks should have been up, and at least in bud if not in bloom.  What was going on?  Did I miss the flowering altogether?  Were they poached?!

This happened with the puttyroot orchid, too.  I know exactly where to find two plants.  All I saw of them this spring was last year’s stalk with seed pods still on it.

I was feeling mighty bad about this.  Not at the thought that I might have missed them, but at the thought that something happened to them and they were gone forever.


Then, one morning a few days later, in a completely unexpected place, something caught my eye: a single stem of this delicate, easy-to-miss wonder.



I admit, I literally fell to my knees with a sigh.


Cranefly orchids grow a single hibernal leaf that dies before the plant flowers in mid summer.  It can be common in parts of its range, which extends from the the upper mid-Atlantic south through Florida and Texas, but is rare in Pennsylvania, threatened in Florida and Michigan, and endangered in Massachusetts and New York.


Flower of the Day: Cranefly Orchid – Again

Tipularia discolor; Orchideaceae (orchid family)


What, again?  Yes, again.  I have a thing for orchids.  They can be the most beautiful flowers, or the most ugly, or the most boring or inconsequential or showy and stunning… I love them all.

Depending on which taxonomist you consult, the Orchidaceae is either the largest plant family or second only to the Asteraceae, with more than 20,000 species in over 800 genera.  They occupy almost every habitat on earth (there are none on glaciers), on every continent except Antarctica.

Orchid biology is fascinating.  I studied it extensively when I grew orchids more than a decade ago but won’t bore you with details.  Finding this plant is lighting the fire in me again…

About the cranefly orchid: it’s a terrestrial, meaning it grows in the ground, as opposed to epiphytic (growing on other plants) or lithophytic (growing on rocks).  It puts out a single, small, leathery leaf, green on top and purple on the bottom, in the autumn.  This leaf will persist throughout the winter and into late spring,


dying back about late May or early June.  In early or mid July a naked shoot will arise:


and start budding up a week later.


The first flowers will open about two weeks after that.


Cranefly orchid is native to the Eastern US, ranging form New York and Michigan south and west through Texas.  It’s listed as threatened in Florida and Michigan, endangered in Massachusetts and New York, and rare in Pennsylvania.

I’ll be going back to check on its progress later today.