Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Orchids

While at the Appalachian Butterfly Conference, I was able to see some gorgeous summer orchids. These orchids are also found in Indiana. One of my favorites, and a real crowd pleaser, is the Yellow Fringed-Orchid, Platanthera ciliaris. Another common name for it is Orange Fringed-Orchid, which I think better describes the color. I viewed no less than a hundred of these this weekend. I have always wanted to see one, as I have wistfully looked through my Orchids of Indiana book by Michael Homoya. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would see so many. Shawnee State Forest had quite a few areas where this beauty could be viewed. This species can be found in Northern Indiana and in Southern Indiana on the Knobstone area just west of New Albany.

Here is a close-up of the flowers. You might note that the fringe on the lip of the orchid looks just like eyelashes. The second part of the scientific name, ciliaris, means eyelash.

Another cool orchid is the Cranefly Orchid, Tipularia discolor. Craneflies are insects that look a lot like mosquitoes and many people call them that. They actually feed mostly on nectar and some do not feed at all during their short life. Most live only a few days. They mate, then die soon afterwards. This orchid looks similar to a swarm of craneflies, hence the name. Tipulidae is the scientific family name for craneflies. Below is a pic I took. These are found in Southern Indiana, with the closest ones to Indy being in Owen and Monroe counties.

My friend John Howard has a much better camera and can get some of those hard shots mine just won't do. Here is a shot below to show the structure of the blossoms.

Below is Crested Coral-root, Hexalectris spicata, an orchid we were all excited to see. Absolutely gorgeous! Jim McCormac spotted this one. This orchid is saprophytic getting its nutrients from dead and decaying matter. Since it does not need to produce its own food, it does not have leaves or chlorophyll like other plants. It has a strange life cycle where the flowering stalk emerges every few years. According to Michael Homoya, because of this trait "many people, botanists included, have not seen this orchid." I feel very lucky. (The green leaves in the picture are from Virginia Creeper, a common vine.) Crested Coral-root is found in southern Indiana in Harrison, Floyd, Clark and Washington counties.

Tomorrow we will cover some more beautiful summer flowers!


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