Monday, July 26, 2010

Two summer jewels

I spent a long weekend in southern West Virginia, visiting some of my favorite places. This is the region where the New River Birding and Nature Festival takes place every year. I made a series of posts about this spring's festival, starting HERE. I understand people are already signing on for next spring's event, so get in early. That festival takes place at the peak of spring, but they could just as easily put one on in mid-summer. I was able to find many birds still singing, and the plants - and various bugs - are outrageous.

A robust Cardinal-flower, Lobelia cardinalis, grows in a damp roadside swale near Babcock State Park. There were many plants, and the swallowtails - Pipevines and Eastern Tigers - were swarming the plants.

A beautiful and relatively easily grown native plant. Not only is Cardinal-flower electric red, it has the added appeal of being a butterfly magnet.

I've found Cardinal-flower to be a surprisingly hard plant to take a great photo of. Not just good, I mean great. Something about the brilliant shade of red causes the flowers to completely wash out in bright sunlight, which were the conditions that I found it in today. If not in full sun, it'll be in shade or worse yet, dappled shade. Anyway, the shots above were taken with manual exposure and were intentionally underexposed to keep the color from looking washed out.

Directly across the road were a number of Turk's-cap Lilies, Lilium superbum, easily at or near the top of the list of North America's most striking lilies. I was excited to see them, as I didn't know there were Turk's-caps in this area. The above plant was so tall that it was groaning under its weight and listing hard to the side. The luxuriant stand of Cinnamon Ferns, Osmunda cinnamomea, make a nice backdrop.

A robust Turk's-cap Lily can tower to eight feet or more in height, and be crowned with a half-dozen plus flowers.

The rich orange flowers are a work of art, and reminded the namer of a Turkish turban. The scientific epithet, superbum, means just that - SUPERB.

The only species that resembles Turk's-cap Lily in these parts is Michigan Lily, L. michiganense, which is easily ruled out where I was as it doesn't occur in West Virginia. A bit tougher to separate is the southern Michaux's Lily, L. michauxii, which is in southernmost WV. It has differently shaped leaves, though.

Turk's-cap Lily is a total showstopper, and it was great to see it. But I saw much more, and I'll try and slap some other West Virginia goodies up here soon.


Nature ID said...

Nice. You have a great blog!

Ian Adams said...


ALL flowers are hard to photograph well in bright sunlight! That's why your Turk's Cap Lily shots look better than the Cardinal Flower photos. If your camera provides it, check the histogram display for the red channel carefully, since the red channel tends to clip highlight detail more often than the blue and green channels. When you fine-tune the photos on your computer, use the Hue/Saturation command in Photoshop (or your image editor of choice) to lower the saturation of the red channel to restore highlight details in the red flowers.

Keep up the great work on your blog!

Ian Adams

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing these, Jim. I LOVE Cardinal flower. I noticed some blooming in a wet ditch the other day, which reminds me that I need to go check a local haunt to see if they are blooming there, too.

Wil said...

Great post. There are Turk's-cap lilies along the scenic highway near Marlinton, WV too. I was really surprised to see them there.
Ian hit the nail on the head regarding checking the red channel of the histogram when photographing red OR yellow flowers. Very easy to clip that channel as digital cameras appear to be very sensitive to red.

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks everyone, and Ian and Wil, I appreciate your feedback on camera technique. I'm always trying to improve.