Monday, August 4, 2008

Downy Rattlesnake-plantain orchid

There are an estimated 35,000 species of orchids so far described worldwide, making it the King of flowering plant families. Maybe that's why many people, myself included, get so excited when they spot one in Ohio. Only 46 native species are found in the Buckeye State, or about 0.0013 of one percent of the global total. No wonder we get a jolt when we stumble across a representative of this largely tropical group.
Last Saturday, a small group of us explored a very interesting Adams County-like prairie in western Holmes County. In the adjoining scruffy woods, we found many of the above, one of Ohio's most common orchids. Downy Rattlesnake-plantain, Goodyera pubescens, may be fairly common but it is always a treat to find, and is sure to be commented on but viewers.
I suspect far more people are familiar with the long-persistent leaves, which are visible pretty much year-round, than are familiar with the midsummer blooms. These basal rosette leaves are quite distinctive, and if you were to find anything similar that WASN'T this species, you'd have quite a find on your hands, at least in Ohio.

One reason flowering Goodyera may be missed is due to the wheres and whens of their blooming. On Saturday, August 2, the plants that we saw were just coming into bloom. This is a hot time to be exploring what at this season are rather uninteresting habitats, botanically. Along with the relative lack of blooming associates in the shady woodland habitat, and heat, come plenty of biting insects. People tend to shun midsummer woodlands, thus missing this beauty.

Almost all orchids have interesting flowers, at least on close inspection, and Downy Rattlesnake-plantain is no exception. Check a woods near you soon, and maybe you'll catch it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, a 3 year mystery in western Wisconsin solved. Not even the master gardeners could figure out what this plant was. My Reader's Digest "North American Wildlife" book gave me the first clue for identification and your site confirmed that what we have is the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain. You made my day. Kudos! Stone Hollow applauds you.