spiranthes casei (two spots) in situ+

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Jan 22, 2008
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elmer, nj
last monday I had planned to join up with Bard Prentiss and Ken Hull to see spiranthes casei in a new spot quite a bit distant from all the others found
in new york state (cortland county). little did I know that the morning would be a little less than calm... was stuck in slow gear and was late getting
out the door and had to drive over an hour over hill and dale to get to this far distant hilltop; no interstate highways between here and there. using
my trusty delorme atlas I found a 'shortcut' and turned onto it. a few miles down the road I saw a detour sign.. (sigh). went a little ways, and the road
started turning the opposite direction from where i wanted to go! (good job charles) I stopped to check out the map to see where the road was going,
not good. got back on the road, noticed was steering poorly; stopped near a barn, had a flat tire! (sigh and head shake) found a screw in my front
tire... I put a tire plug in the hole and started pumping the tire back up with my tiny air pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter; tire is halfway
pumped up, the pump breaks! hmmmmmm... I look at the map again and decide to drive slowly to some sort of civilization (i'm way out there in the
middle of sticksville) and use a gas station air pump to finish filling the tire and head to the meeting spot. I get to the nearest 'town' and they don't
have a gas station. I get cell phone reception, hear Ken asking me "where the heck are you?"; I try to call, no luck phone turned off. so, up to the
orchid spot with a half-filled tire. I get there and there's a long gravel road down to the spot; lucky I have my mountain bike on the back of the car.
gear up, ride perilously down the path to the spot; Ken says 'we just got here five minutes ago!'. later on I stopped at an auto parts store just before
they closed, and they had small air pumps on sale (cha-ching!)

the orchids were in a scraped area in a hollow of a tall hillside, actually at about 1800' above sea level. the area used to be a ski area and had remnants
of such and different corrals probably used for horse; may have been a private dude ranch and ski area back in the mid-1900's but long shut down. spiranthes
casei can be found in the upper adirondack mountain park and in new england, and in this distant station of cortland county which is about as high as the
other locations east of it. the elevation keeps the temperature cooler (or maybe more importantly not as extremely high as other areas). extreme high
temps do in a lot of native orchids that are found to the north, like cypripediums. casei can be found in spots that have been cleared of topsoil and don't
support many other plants, meaning that there can be openings for these plants to grow up without being shaded or crowded out by the plants around
them. usually the soil is packed clay and this spot has a thin layer of packed soil over the shale that is commonly found in this part of central upstate ny.
casei used to be called 'the northern variety of spiranthes vernalis', which is found along the coast of new england/ny and down south. though superficially
similar, vernalis usually much larger both in plant and flower size


typical casei site presentation


once you've seen a few different spiranthes in situ, you can sort of tell when you are looking at a casei at a little distance. the flowers present very close together,
are small and there is quite a bit of green between the white spiral up the stem. with a quick glance you can often recognize a casei plant


nice plant viewed from below with sky as backdrop


the top sepal of casei hangs closely over the top of the throat of the flower and if you can manage to look underneath the lip, it will be sort of butterscotch yellow.
also if you crush a flower it can have a bitter fragrance. the front opening of the flower is usually very constricted by the convergence of the petals and sepals.
the flowers of spiranthes cernua, for instance which flowers often nearby and a little later on, flare very widely open and the top sepal flares upwards sharply rather
than tipping down over the throat towards the lip


soldier lichen


blackberries, pre-consumption image (smile)




goldenrod, several varieties grow in wetlands and dry areas where orchids grow


queen-anne's lace



merge image of the old ski area above the orchids. you can see the old chair lift. in the upper left side of the first/left image you can see Bard and Ken walking up the trail

this is the end of the cortland county pictures, i'll post the adirondacks/rt 10 pictures in a reply post below
spiranthes casei and others hamilton county/piseco lake

these pics are from last friday when I went up to the intersection of state rts. 8 and 10 just south of piseco lake in hamilton county. paul martin brown who is a well-known north american native orchid hunter and book writer, did his thesis on spiranthes casei that were found along rt 10 south of this intersection. the main spot where these are found is a few miles down the road near a road crew sand lot and winter parking area for snowmobiles. most are in a thin field that was scraped to make a flat spot to park, which is exactly where casei seeds like to germinate. populations here vary widely depending on when the road crews mow the sides of the road; many people drive these roads in late summer/early fall on their way to camp or to view the fall foliage on the trees as they change colors. though the roadsides often have very nice wildflowers, the highway departments think that tourists would rather see green/brown chopped roadsides as they tour, rather than native and attractive wildflowers. in some spots the casei plants will come up in the same spot for a few years, especially if they were mowed down before they could set seed that were held to maturity. a plant that flowers successfully and sets seed that is dispersed uses much more energy than one that starts to flower but is then chopped off. though very remote, this area is often very busy (and noisy) as trucks, campers and motorcycles (very popular bike routes) zoom by. as I was taking pictures two motorcycles went flying by going I don't know how fast, leaning quite a bit sideways to make the curve...


spiranthes casei site in open field


nice tall plant up near the edge of the bank, close to the trees. largest plants grow in partial shade high on the banks


tiny plant down amongst the wild strawberries



there are quite a few black-eyed susans growing in this area, some of them have very interesting shapes and color patterns



the center of this flower has quite a bit more saturation than the tips




a drift of wildflowers on the side of state rt 10 looking south


looking north up rt 10 towards piseco lake, my native-orchid hunting wagon on the right
rt 10 from the intersection of rt 8 south can have hundreds to thousands of spiranthes in the ditches and banks along the road.
usually these are different forms of spiranthes cernua. just west of pine lake on 29a, there is a bank where there is a form of spiranthes
cernua which i've been told may have had introgression with spiranthes odorata, a species similar to cernua but usually found further south,
which is very fragrant. these local plants are very stocky, appear to spread alot by roots and are so fragrant you can smell them from inside
your car parked along the side of the road (a trip for next month!)
Very interesting account and photos Charles, thank you. It is fun to have an adventure like that, flat and all! The Finger Lakes regions is an area I've never spent any time in, but it does look interesting with all those low rolling hills and valleys. Is this area continuous with the Catskills? If memory serves those mountains are in fact an old worn down plateau rather than being thrust up. Same with this area?
Is this area continuous with the Catskills? If memory serves those mountains are in fact an old worn down plateau rather than being thrust up. Same with this area?

I think all the hilly areas of new york are connected. I do believe that central ny is mostly eroded highland; the adirondacks i've heard raise at least an inch a year, but erode just as fast or faster. I think the allegany state park area is part of the allegany plateau mountains that are part of the mountains that go through pennsylvania and in part were higher than the glaciers that moved through that area

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