Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lady's-tresses

Meetings are always a bit of a chore. One way to make up for the work aspect of such drudgery is to hold said meeting in the midst of beautiful surroundings. And that's what some of us did a week ago, when we convened to sketch out an upcoming conference. Randy Lakes was good enough to host us at his Adams County property, and plenty of good stuff lurked right outside the cabin door. The field above held some Rattlesnake-master, Eryngium yuccifolium, and numerous other botanical goodies.

We were pleased to find the meadows full of these orchids, looking like floriferous confections. It is a Slender Lady's-tresses, Spiranthes lacera. They're not rare, but uncommon might fit, and this species has probably been recorded from one-third of Ohio's counties. Many orchids have boom years, and bust years, and it must have been boomtime in Adams County as we saw dozens of lady's-tresses.

Orchids in the genus Spiranthes are very distinctive as a group, but pinning a specific name on one is not often as easy it might seem. A big division between groups of lady's-tresses is whether the plant has a single or a double spiral. This one clearly has the single spiral; the flowers wrap themselves up the stem like the stripe on a barber pole. Double-spiraled species have a much denser flowering spike.

Spiranthes lacera has a lime-green cast to the inner flower. Like the rest of its brethren, the flowers look to be made from sugar, molded into impossibly contorted shapes.

Another Adams County prairie, another Spiranthes. This one stumped me, at least initially, and I may still be wrong. There are better orchidophiles than I lurking out there in Cyberspace, and if one of you knows better, do tell.

At first blush, the flowering spike of this one seems thicker, more densely flowered, perhaps one of the double-spiraled species. But, I don't think so. In most respects this species is very similar to the Spiranthes lacera in the first three photos. I think it is the so-called Northern Slender Lady's-tresses, Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis, which at times has been considered a distinct species.


You know, to many people it really isn't THAT important what you call these things. They are perfectly satisfied with enjoying plants like this orchid purely for their intrinsic beauty, without being caught up in overly propeller-headed pursuits such as trying to pin a name on every darn thing.

Halleluja, brother - who cares what its name is! An orchid such as this is always a pot at the end of the rainbow, no matter what you call it!

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2 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This Lady looks as though she has been through many twists and turns in her life. Beautiful!

LauraHinNJ said...

Hallelujah!

;-)