Skip to main content

More orchids

Probably no other popular group of animals illustrates the plant-animal link as vividly as butterflies and moths. Their larvae in nearly all cases are utterly dependent upon plants for food, and these relationships often are quite specific. At last weekend's Appalachian Butterfly Conference, we certainly didn't ignore the plants, and many skilled botanists were around. Early August is an incredible time in regards to floristic diversity in Shawnee State Forest and the nearby prairies of Adams County. Most of our participants were totally into learning about plants, especially how they interact with butterflies.

Following are two very cool orchids that we found over the weekend.

Ghostly pale spires of flowering Cranefly Orchid, Tipularia discolor, thrust forth in the dappled light of an oak forest. This is not an in-your-face orchid, and even plants in full bloom would be quite easy to pass by. Tipularia refers to a genus of craneflies: long-legged gangly insects that look like mosquitoes on steroids. The flowers of this odd orchid are reminiscent of these insects.

Closer view of the spindly flowers with their long spurs. Cranefly Orchid is easier to find in winter. In late fall, long after the flowering stalks have faded, the plants send up evergreen leaves that are dark green above and dark purple below. These leaves overwinter and photosynthesize, providing energy to the roots. By late spring, the leaves have withered into nothingness, and in mid-summer these strange flowering shoots jut above the leaf litter. The flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths in the Noctuid Family. The orchid's flowers are noctodorous - they issue a fragrance only at night, to attract their nocturnal pollinators. The oddly asymmetrical flower arrangement ensures that the moth's fuzzy eyeballs will be forced into contact with pollen, which will then be transported to the next orchid. It's an odd and wacky world out there.

Thanks to the sharp eyes of Kevin Bradbury, we found a much showier representative of the Orchidaceae in this powerline right-of-way.

This one can't be missed. It's the threatened Yellow Fringed Orchid, Platanthera ciliaris, which is only known from three small regions of Ohio. There were over 100 plants growing in this sunny opening; one of the better populations known. These orchids were a real hit, and nearly every group stopped by to pay homage.

Few plants have the shock factor of Yellow Fringed Orchids. The color alone is enought to stop one in their tracks, and even plant-haters would feel some admiration for it, I suspect. Many orchids are highly dependent on disturbance, whether it be mowing, fire, or soil disturbance. This powerline was probably mowed last year, stimulating a healthy emergence of orchids this year.


Anonymous said…

This is where I credited your picture as a reference for someone looking to ID this plant because the pictures are comparable. Thank you. I randomly played with a friend's facebook link and am a botany major, so I had fun hunting to ID. I'm mary ellison wright on facebook if you are on there. :)

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…