spiranthes cernua, large fragrant form

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the sun finally came out a few days ago, so I decided to check out a few local and nearby spiranthes spots for a few people that want to come up and get pictures of them. a few miles away on state rt 49 is a large population of spiranthes cernua that are the tallest ones i've ever seen. cernua is what is called a species complex; if you go to a number of different spots this time of year in upstate ny and the adirondacks, you will see a large number of spiranthes that at first glance seem like they are different species. if you send them to chuck sheviak in albany, though he will confirm that they are all different forms of cernua. often this happens because the flowers have set seed before a pollinator has had a chance to visit the open flower and that an examination of the seed shows that they often have more than one embryo - which often are signs that the plant/flower is cernua. there are other spiranthes species in the area, but i've been told that they don't often hybridize with cernua. just a slightly different position on a roadside bank can reveal what looks like three different spiranthes, which end up being different forms of the same thing. one thing that may have contributed to the wide variety of forms is that central ny state at one time was a mess of water, mud and different forms of mineral deposits on the surface, due to the mixing and deposition of soil and bedrock by the retreating glaciers. also the position on the continent between what's usually called 'the north' (canada) and 'the south' (mid-atlantic to southern u.s.) allows growing conditions to be very close to warm and cold areas, where there are other spiranthes species that grow. with all of these different growing conditions and different species in close proximity, there likely was a very great opportunity for genes from different species to mix and stir resulting in a great mess of plants that are now called the 'cernua complex'. some of these may very well be on their way to becoming new species, but for now they are still deciding what they want to be!

along rt 49 there is a constantly damp ditch and a bit more neutral conditions than the usual slightly alkaline spots where spiranthes cernua often grows in upstate ny. in this spot, the plants and flowers are often very tall, robust and fragrant. you can smell the flowers as you walk through the ditch. the plants can also be quite short, but they are still usually very robust. in other areas where spiranthes cernua can grow and flower earlier, if they are short plants they are usually not that robust. occasionally a flowering stem here can be long enough to reach from my fingertip to my elbow (just short of 2' tall which is amazing for cernua)

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I traveled to camden, ny where there is a population of spiranthes ochroleuca. it's often hard to tell the two apart, but if you look at this picture and then look back at the cernua, you can see that the cernua are often much more 'white' and the ochroleuca is usually much more of a creamy yellow color

one sad note is that when you start seeing the summer/fall species like casei, cernua and ochroleuca, you know that the orchid season will soon come to an end! :( even many of the fall wildflowers are already flowering quite a bit early, and a few are wondering if there will be any wildflowers still in flower later this fall if it's still mild...
 
Great spirals! It's interesting that these plants really need to be seen up-close to appreciate them. Maybe even to recognize them.
 
You seem to know lots of places where to find the loveliest natives!!:clap::clap:!! Jean

yes, a friend of mine in the syracuse orchid club is a retired army major and in later years has had time to drive around the back roads around this area and just see what grows there. He's the one who got me into going to different places and taking native orchid pictures, and clued me into the fact that lots of them grow in wet ditches or very close by. I found both these spiranthes cernua and the population of spiranthes ochroleuca near camden just by driving down the road and spotting them out of the corner of my eye. he has found bog candles, lots of spiranthes, showy ladyslippers and others just by slowly driving down the road and looking in the ditch. right now below the intersection of state routes 8 and 10 up near piseco lake in the adirondacks, the ditches and low banks in spots mostly along 10 are filled with drifts of spiranthes in flower. it's unfortunate that the road crews mow through there and cut down lots of them trying to 'improve' the roadside around this time of year but sometimes it's timed right so that they mow and then the orchids come up...

about my eye for finding, years ago when I worked at the golf course near my home town, on occasion I would have time to look for golf balls (my superintendent had a driving range and would trade me the balls I found for range time etc). I 'trained' myself to be able to spot a ball hiding in the leaves, so that if I saw a few dimples of white, orange or bright green (usual colors of golf balls) sticking out (colors that shouldn't be there...), i'd know there was at least one ball in that spot. instead of looking hard for a ball you just sort of blur everything out, and if something doesn't match what should be there.. voila! it works often for orchids because the size shape and colors often are very different for what 'should be' in the woods, or in this case you just look for low, white sprays close to the ground in a ditch or low bank. getting lucky also helps! ;)
 
it's actually easier on the surgery spots sitting in my car seat than on my couch, bed or chair... and I've found out how to easily get into and out of my car, so just as long as I don't drop things and try to catch them quickly (very fast movements bad...) or lift things off-balance or just lift heavy things it isn't too bad. and riding around is certainly more interesting than sitting at home! I put my bike in the shop since I knew couldn't ride safely for a while and would love to ride, but don't know when I'll be cleared to be able to ride slowly, on a flat
(and carrying a camera/snapping a shutter takes no effort at all though getting down to flower height and back up must be done carefully)
 
Nice findings!!!

I did not know you had a problem like this... I hope it is fixed as soon as possible...!
 
....
I 'trained' myself to be able to spot a ball hiding in the leaves, so that if I saw a few dimples of white, orange or bright green (usual colors of golf balls) sticking out (colors that shouldn't be there...), i'd know there was at least one ball in that spot. instead of looking hard for a ball you just sort of blur everything out, and if something doesn't match what should be there.. voila! :D it works often for orchids because the size shape and colors often are very different for what 'should be' in the woods, or in this case you just look for low, white sprays close to the ground in a ditch or low bank. getting lucky also helps! ;)

I just can say that every spring when I am looking for ophrys (esp. insectifera) here, I have to sort of 'reconfigure' my view to be able to detect those plants in the grass.. :), and that may take up to one hour :eek::eek: !!! Jean
 
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