liparis liliifolia

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Jan 22, 2008
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elmer, nj
... or the lily-leaved twayblade. Ken Hull, Jerry Pedini and I traveled down to the Hazelton, Pa area to check out and take some pictures of this native orchid. I had only seen one plant of this species growing on the edge of cicero swamp near syracuse, ny a few years ago, and that plant didn't come up the next year (drought, saw remains of dead plant next year). A fellow native orchid enthusiast from pennsylvania shared one of his locations with us. there are only four plants in that whole area. Ken went down about a week before, but only one plant was in flower. I was told to take a day off during the week for having worked the weekend shift, so we set up a quick road trip. Liliifolia isn't a brightly-colored flower, but if you appreciating subtlety, it has very beautiful flowers, especially viewed very closely! the flowers are much like listera convallarioides (broad-lipped twayblade) which are green, but the plant doesn't have twayblade leaves or a stem; instead it has leaves more like showy orchis

there are a few liparis that are in the horticultural trade now, but they are tropical plants. these are not likely to be very easy to grow in a pot, and should be left where they are found!


two plants at the base of the tree. one is more compact than the others, but is much more colorful


the tallest plant a few feet away from the tree. not as colorful but large and beautiful. the flowers have an opaque, iridescent quality that you have to see up close and in person to really appreciate. this plant had sixteen flowers and buds; though the smaller flowering plant was quite a bit shorter than this one, it still had fifteen flowers and buds



closeup of tallest plant/flowers


closeup of more compact plant, note the much brighter colors

... did I mention that it was mostly cloudy and very breezy? Ken and Jerry took their pictures first, then I waited interminably long periods between shots waiting for the wind to die down. behind the plants I had my ancient red/white golfing umbrella set up to cut the wind; it worked fairly well but also cut the light a little. later on there was some sun which made it a little easier to get nice pictures (ken and jerry were looking at and taking pictures of some plant called 'fly poison' that ken was very excited about; it wasn't an orchid so I didn't take any pictures ;) actually it was fairly attractive, but I wandered up to where they were after putting my camera away in the car, as I didn't think there would be anything else worth taking a picture! :rollhappy: the plant 'fly poison' is possibly extirpated in new york state so ken was very happy to get pictures of it. the plant looks like a bluish lily (like your tiger lilies) but the white flowers grow in a tube shape on the end of a long stem which elongates as the newest flowers mature (sort of like a bottle brush). I guess google can show you what the flowers look like)
These are exquisitely beautiful little things! The side/profile view of some of the flowers in photo 3 gives the unique illusion of something akin to mosquitos, but the flowers look very exotic in the more frontal close-up shots. :clap:
Thanks for posting these Charles, they remind me of home. I love the idea of using an umbrella to cut down on the wind...great tip that I'll definitely try in the future!

In southern New York these were pretty common when I was a kid. They liked newly regenerating forest around 20-30 years old in areas with good drainage. Mines and rock cuts on roadsides were the places they were most abundant while established woodlands with larger trees produced very few. I suspect this species actually benefited by the loss of old forests in the mid Atlantic and New England states since it definitely appears to prefer younger stands. Of course nowadays that regenerated forest is disappearing and continues to get me! :rollhappy:
I've taken large pieces of cardboard out to stop the wind, but an umbrella would be even better. Clever!

I've heard people say that the only decent native (to N. America) orchids are ladyslippers. But I've seen so many really beautiful and interesting natives on this forum, that I sure won't agree with them. Thanks, Charles.
beautiful translucent , sparkly lip! makes me want to go on an orchid expedition!:D