Mid-Atlantic Native Orchids + in situ

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Jan 22, 2008
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elmer, nj
For the last two months or so I've been working in Eastern Virginia in a huge greenhouse facility, and in the last few weeks i've managed to get around to a few different places in the region. I was first told about a park near Washington, D.C. where there were supposed to be a few orchids including the very rare isotria medeoloides (Lesser Whorled Pogonia). It has a more common relative called the Large Whorled Pogonia which i've seen in a few places in upstate NY. I tried following the directions which I thought led me to a muddy pit/drainage area where I couldn't find the pogonias, but I did find some leaves of what I think are tipularia orchids.


tipularia leaves

I then dug out the first email directions i'd received which were a bit more clear, and I went down the road a bit further. I found an area that looked more likely, found some flagging as described and then found two cages with flagging and plants inside, and one with a bud. I had been told that one plant out of all at the park had a bud and that it might be open in a few days, and as I was just pre-checking out the area it was still just in bud. I left to find a parking ticket to the tune of $130 under my windshield wiper, and was somewhat disgruntled...


Lesser Whorled Pogonia in bud

I planned on going back a number of days later when I figured that the bud would be opened, but as fortune would have it the bud had blasted and looked like a tiny black cinder :(

A few days later I had the opportunity to travel some distance to visit a spot that was purported to have cypripedium kentuckiense; I had never expected to be somewhere in an area that might have this species of yellow ladyslipper, so was somewhat excited to have the chance to see the big, puffy flowers. I was told that the winter had been cold and long in this area, and that would delay things a bit. When I was walking around the park at first, a frequent visitor told me that this species usually was flowering around Mother's Day, and I was likely to only find seed pods if anything (bummer again). I decided to continue looking around, and did find a bunch of flower stems with lots of seed pods from the year before


tall orchid stem/pods

I decided later that these may be tipularia stems, as they flower without any leaf present. I found an interesting white flower that i'd seen before but couldn't remember the name


a little ways down the path, and I saw a few beautiful bright blue damselflies or 'darning needles' flitting about around some leaves in the sunlight. I was entranced, but couldn't get quite close enough....


I decided to take a side trail before getting near the area where the yellow ladyslippers were supposed to be, and soon found these pink ladyslippers past their prime


not far from the cyp acaule, I found what i'm pretty sure were fallen native magnolia flowers. their color was very interesting but definitely not flamboyant



Before meeting up the the family who told me about the yellows, I spotted some goodyera pubescens leaves, which I showed them ("cool" - was the reaction) :) turns out there was quite a number of them in different parts of the park, but too early for any flowering stems, I think (I didn't see any stems while I was there)


rattlesnake plantain orchid leaves

I love finding any of this genera in the woods, the patterns are really interesting

more soon
I think those are tulip poplar flowers second and third from the bottom. Ours finished around three weeks or so ago.
I think those are tulip poplar flowers. Ours finished about three weeks ago.
Yw. Was glad to be out away from work (pretty close to 70 hrs/wk average in the greenhouses, and sick of sweating and swatting at mosquitos) and checking out some new places.

I hiked down the main path and was greeted by a wonderful show of mountain laurel! I was always disappointed in my youth when I'd look in landscaping catalogs and see that it wasn't really hardy where I lived.


closeup of closest spray


follow the path!

a little ways further I saw some tipularia orchid leaves right up against the base of a tree. I took a pic of the underside of the leaves to show the usual purple color


I had mentioned to the family that I'd been told that 'showy orchis' flowered here, and was trying to remember whether or not I was mis-remembering the species when I stepped off the path to the right and looked down


.. and found this little lily-leaved twayblade right next to my foot!

I got excited when I realized it was this species I was supposed to find here, and had 'just found it' in the usual way, by accident and nearly stepping on it
I was more excited when I looked forward and saw these






plants viewed from the top, can see the lips flat out

these beautiful orchids have a translucent color that's very difficult to capture 'on film'. I ended up taking lots of pictures, trying for the perfect picture. There were easily near a hundred plants all told that I saw, and probably much more than that in the whole preserve. the first big clump I saw maybe had 20 plants altogether in the clump, and many plants had seed pods from the previous year. most were in 3/4's bloom or nearly full, so it was a perfect find and with some sun shining through it was an amazing thing to see. later on I found a huge plant that had around 35 blooms and buds on it; easily the largest I had ever seen. Actually most of them were larger than the one I had seen in ny and the few I'd seen in pennsylvania
While looking at another group of twayblades nearby, a few hikers came by and I showed them the orchids, and they were pretty impressed with them

up against a large tree in the middle of the twayblade colony I saw some of these mystery plants coming up


I saw better ones later on but was too busy checking out the twayblades to get another picture

more later!
Looks like great fun Charles. The Isotria in particular is really special - but sorry to hear about the ticket and failed bud. Sometimes botanizing can be expensive! Fantastic group of L. lilifolia too - wow, nice.

A couple IDs - the trailing tiny vine is Mitchella repens and the last shot is a gentian relative, Obolaria virginica.

BTW, here is a great site of Virginia's wildflowers and mushrooms - great shots and info. It takes a while to load, but well worth looking at.

Thanks, and for links and id's
I look at some of my back threads and wish I could be out there right now! Someone did tell me that the second park was supposed to have had a double small whorled pogonia but was past when they told me, and they didn't provide directions

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Your mystery plant appears to be mint family (square stem I presume)... Scutellaria? Penstemon? I'm not finding a match, but it may be early season foliage/habit that isn't typical.
Looks like needle in hay stack type stuff.

Did you get eaten alive? Ticks?

We had zero insects on our hikes last week.
Flower count was almost zero. Thank the maker for dandelions...
Was pretty cool. I had directions to each place, but some spots I wasn't looking in the right place, or had forgotten which species were at that site (d'oh!)

There weren't too many bugs at either of the places, a few mosquitos at the second and maybe one tick at the first... I did have to swing a few times where the ladyslippers were but nothing like upstate ny! Sorry you saw so little on your trip, hope there was some good that you were able to get from it


ephemeral beauty!


twayblade seed pod with hiding bug and bug eggs




I think this was the largest plant. It's hard to get the scale of some of these plants and I didn't include something for reference like I should have, but this plant had around 35 flowers and buds, the most I think of all the plants I saw. They really are difficult to photograph well in their element, and likely need to have at least one or two staged photos with backdrops to really show them off
cyp kentuckiense

I posted this in the cyps pictures thread, and til now haven't had any cyp images. I just want to mention that sometimes I receive information about orchid locations, and they aren't necessarily common knowledge where they are, and sometimes they are locally well-known. If I don't give a specific locality, then I don't want to discuss (publicly) where I found them. Also if you think that you do know where a spot is i'm highlighting, then I would appreciate if it were not mentioned in the thread. I'm more than happy to talk it over off-line, but please remember that these posts get archived and are available for searchers basically as long as this forum is alive and I have no interest in providing a means for easy searching for diggers.


I went down the trail that was supposed to lead to the cyp kentuckiense area, and at first looking around I didn't see anything not even plants with seed pods (bummer). I went down a side trail that was near the indicated area but still nothing. Returning to the main trail I realized that I had walked right past a perfectly flowering kentucky yellow ladyslipper! (yay!) It wasn't in seed pod stage, it was in perfect condition. Looking around then and later, it was the only plant in flower or seed that I found, but since it was a bit later in the day and fairly shady (and muddy) I didn't look around too much. ... also didn't want to risk finding any toothed reptiles that might want to investigate my ankles ;) . The plant was at the bottom of a ravine, right where the stream emptied into a wetland. It looked very similar to the kettle fens in upstate ny where spring water ebbed from the hillside, carrying calcium from limestone rock below. I don't know if kentucky ladyslipper has anything to do with limestone at all though. First thing I noticed about the flower was that it was sort of bright yellow with a limey green tint, and that the lip was *huge!
It had a nice fragrance, different than the southern small yellow ladyslippers. The colors are a little off; since it was fairly dark I had to increase the iso setting which changes the color/saturation a little




me after finding a lone cyp kentunckiense in perfect bloom!


iphone pic with a bit more wide-angle view of the surroundings


and yet another from the front


phone pic from as far below as I could get, to show the jay leno-esque nature of the lip!


nice front shot showing staminode and pollinia behind


view showing the lines of red spots on the inside of the lip


you can sort of see teeth and red spots along the top of the pouch opening


shot showing difficulty in spotting orchids in the wild


this vine/shrub down by the wetland had an amazing fragrance!


while I was admiring the fragrance of the white flowers, this deeply blue colored darning needle landed right in front of me, almost asking me to admire and take pictures of it (which I did)


way back up the trail did a side-hill detour and found a wide-spread colony of nicely patterned goodyera pubescens


found this along an alternative path to the parking area (meaning I got lost trying to take a shortcut lol). if anyone knows what the mystery plants are, feel free to fill in the blanks

I still have more recent southern small yellow ladyslipper pictures to post, so stay tuned!
Wonderful pictures! I hope I'll be able to see some cyps in the wild one day. The fragrant vine is honeysuckle.

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ty for id! last sunday I decided to check out a spot along the skyline drive six years before where ken hull and i had been directed to find a nice colony of cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum or small southern yellow ladyslipper. it was a bit later in the month than we'd been there before but the winter had been cold and long, so a good chance there might still be some cyps in flower. it was a beautiful day, but surprisingly chilly up on the mountains over 3000'. I went through the area and didn't remember the exact spot where the orchids had been and it was pretty grassy this time, so I pulled into the next rest area and dug out my previous directions. I went to the spot beyond a sign that I'd been told about, and sure enough the orchids were right there! a good number were a bit old or chewed on by something but at least a third were fresh and in excellent shape! I did see some slug or caterpillar damage on some plants but most were very nice

these plants are small, and the lip/pouches also not very big. when i'd first read about them in the field guides and looked at the pictures, I couldn't bring myself to think that they'd be any smaller than the yellows i'd seen in upstate ny. but, here were roughly 100 plants with about 50 flowers, some plants with double flowers, and if you had a three-foot wide plate you could almost fit the whole colony onto it. these flowers had kind of a strawberry/rose musky fragrance, different than the kentuckiense pubescens and the makasin yellows, which each have a different fragrance. some say that all the yellows are just varieties, but other tropical orchids that are found to grow in different habitats, have slightly different flowering times, have a different fragrance (meaning different pollinator likely) and grow in different habitats are given species status. taxonomists obviously disagree about many things, so there you have it....













still a few more to post

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