When One Color Isn’t Enough (part one)

More pictures to keep us dreaming of warmer weather. This time, spring-blooming multi-colored flowers.

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger-of-spring; Apiaceae)

This is one of our earliest blooming native plants (the only one I can think of that blooms earlier is skunk cabbage). These anthers turn quickly from dark red to black, giving rise to another common name, pepper-and-salt.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

That’s right, bluebells again, because here they are in several different colors all in one clump. I can’t wait to see them again.

Galearis spectabilis (showy orchis; Orchidaceae)

This surprisingly common terrestrial orchid grows in all the physiographic provinces in Maryland, but we have the most records for it in the piedmont and coastal plain. Look for it blooming in April and May in rich, moist soils in wooded areas.

Viola sororia (common blue violet, white form ; Violaceae)

Common blue violets are, well, pretty common around here. They seem quite fond of edge areas and open woodlands, always in moist soils. They can be found all over Maryland, blooming from late March into early May.

Cypripedium acaule (pink lady’s slipper; Orchidaceae)

Like most orchids, pink lady’s slipper has specific growing requirements, which means you won’t find it just anywhere. But it does grow pretty much all over the state. Look for it flowering in early May, in rich, undisturbed woodland soils.

Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue; Plantaginaceae)

This bizarre-looking flower is found mostly in the northern part of Maryland, but there’s a reliable stand on the Billy Goat B trail. Look for it in lean soils (rocky areas) in full sun light, blooming from early to late May.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry; Rubiaceae) [click on this one!]

What can I write about partridgeberry that I haven’t written before? This is one of my very favorites; I go looking for it every year at the end of May. The plants grow very long but stay very low, creeping along rocks. We have records for it in every Maryland county.

Thalictrum coriaceum (maid-of-the-mist; Ranunculaceae)

Although it isn’t on the Maryland RTE list, we only have records for it in three quads in Montgomery County. I think that’s rather odd, and suspect it’s due to misidentification (see The Botanerd’s Handy Guide to Thalictrum Species). That bright pink on the sepals and filaments turns quickly to brown.

Another Orchid Added To My List

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pink lady’s slipper
aka moccasin flower
Cypripedium acaule
Orchidaceae

The state of Maryland is home to more than 50 species of native orchids. Until this past weekend, I have seen only three of those in bloom (and the leaves of a fourth).

I was going a little crazy trying to find any of the three species of lady’s slippers in Maryland. After hours of searching on Sugarloaf Mountain I found a plant, I think, but it wasn’t flowering. I might have seen several plants in Rachel Carson Conservation Park, but can’t be sure until they flower.

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Then a very kind member of the Maryland Native Plant Society came to my rescue. The instructions were explicit and excellent, and I was able to spot eleven plants in a somewhat spread out area. Three of them were in bloom.

It helps to be looking in the right places, of course. Interestingly, pink lady’s slipper grows in several different habitats. I’ve seen references to it growing in dry woods and moist woods, on slopes and in bogs, in hardwood forests and mixed deciduous-coniferous woods.

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It does like acidic soils and dappled sunlight.

Like most orchids, this plant depends on a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil fungus in order to reproduce and grow. For this reason (among others, like its very large root system), attempts to transplant it from the wild are doomed to fail.

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Pink lady’s slipper ranges from the upper Midwest into New England, then south into Virginia and a little further south along the Appalachian Mountains. It can be found all over Maryland, though there are no records for it in four counties per the Maryland Biodiversity Project. It’s endangered in Illinois; exploitably vulnerable in New York; commercially exploited, endangered in Tennessee; and unusual in Georgia.

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An now, a confession: I actually find this flower rather ugly. That doesn’t change how happy I am to have finally seen it in the wild.

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