Skip to main content

A rare orchid

Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve, Marblehead Peninsula, Ohio. Just a stone's throw from the Lake Erie shore. Looks like a lunar landscape, eh? Not at all, as we shall see; indeed, the place was established as a preserve to protect one of the rarest plants in the U.S., the federally threatened Lakeside Daisy, Tetraneuris herbacea. I made two impromptu field trips here during the recent Midwest Birding Symposium, and we had scads of migrant birds in the surrounding trees. When we weren't looking up we looked down at the dazzling vegetative treats that follow.

Large Milkweed Bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus, cluster on the pods of a milkweed that is rather rare and local in the state. It is Sand Milkweed, Asclepias hirtella. When in full bloom, the flower clusters resemble bursts of exploding fireworks shooting from the leaf axils.

Elfin in the extreme is the Narrow-leaved Summer Bluets, Stenaria (Houstonia) nigricans, sometimes known by the charismatic name of Diamondflower. Most were long gone, but enough tiny flowers remained to grab our attention. This is a rarity in Ohio, known from only a few scattered sites, but if the spot is favorable, there can be thousands of plants, as here.

Good-looking and conspicuous was Pringle's Aster, Symphyotrichum pringlei. I tend to be more a lumper than splitter by nature in affairs of taxonomy, but not here. Current wisdom has this species reduced to a varietal rank of Ohio's most common aster, the Awl Aster, Symphyotrichum pilosum. Treated that way, our beauty above takes on the cumbersome trinomial of Symphyotrichum pilosum var. pringlei.

Pringle's Aster is very different, though, both in habitat and physiology, and I suspect that one day it'll be carved from the pack and treated distinctly. It's a rarity around here, too, being found on barren limestone pavements such as we are now visiting, and ecologically similar cedar glade prairies in Adams County.

Star of the show, though, was this little plant, its tiny white spires of flowers scarcely visible more than 30 feet away.

Like all Spiranthes orchids - nearly ALL orchids for that matter - the flowers are works of art up close. This is the Great Plains Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes magnicamporum, which inhabits alkaline prairie barrens. The curved upper sepals resemble the horns of a charging bull. Belly-flopping onto the cold hard rock is required to see this level of detail, but it's time well spent.

It seems as if the flowers are lit from within; a dim golden aura issuing from deep within the throat. Maybe elves live inside, but a more plausible explanation is that the yellowish cast attracts pollinators.

Should you find yourself in this region next May for the avalanche of spring bird migration, try and make time to visit the seemingly barren 19-acre Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve. Then, the rocky substrate will be carpeted yellow with the flowers of the Lakeside Daisy, creating one of the absolute must-see natural spectacles anywhere in the Midwest.


Great post Jim, almost as good as being there! Thanks too, for the updated nomenclature on the daisy.

It is most amazing how you keep all the names straight!


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…