Sunday, September 2, 2012

Getting back into the groove (?)

As summer draws to a close, I find that I haven't taken very many pictures during this hot, humid, crazy season. I still have quite a backlog from springtime, though, so why not go with that?

This spring was heavy on the orchids for me, with many new species finding their way into my life and on the other end of my camera lens. Some were seen in Ohio, others in Michigan. And so we will turn our attention to northern Michigan where I encountered a number of "life" orchids.

I was delighted to be the person in our group who spotted this stunner blooming amid the leaf litter. It's Striped Coralroot, Corallorhiza striata. You will notice there's no green in this plant. That's because it doesn't produce chlorophyll and thus doesn't photosynthesize. I still don't understand all the mechanics behind plants that rely only on fungi in the leaf litter or the roots of other plants for their nourishment, but it's still fascinating, nonetheless.

Another stunning orchid encountered during my May trip to Michigan was this Ram's-head Lady's-slipper (also called Ram's-head Orchid), Cypripedium arietinum. This was an especially wonderful treat due to its rarity, and was surely a life plant for almost all in our group (including moi). The population of these orchids in the area where we found this specimen was small and fragile, so we had to watch our step to make sure to not damage any of the existing plants.

Perhaps more familiar, and certainly very common along our walks, was the Yellow Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum. The huge flowers on these are sure crowd-pleasers. You could probably fit about 3 flowers from the Ram's-head Orchid into one of the Yellow Lady's-slippers.

My final plant for this post has an orchid-looking flower, but actually belongs to the milkwort family. It's dainty and bright, and is easily spotted even though it grows rather low to the ground. It's known by a number of common names such as Fringed Polygala, Fringed Milkwort, or Gaywings (scientific name is Polygala paucifolia).

For my next post, I'll share some orchids I've encountered a little closer to home.