They were a bit past their "prime " this year, as the weather has played havoc with much of Ohio's normal botanical timing. But mark mid-May on your calendar for next year and see them emerging from the rubble-like natural formations of tufa rock. These orchids, smallest of the lady’s-slippers, are fit for a pint-sized princess. Breath-taking to behold and mixed in with many other mega-rarities, if you go to visit be careful where you step as rare plant life is found everywhere.
It is an impressive sight. Friends Jimmy and Susan "ooh and ah" over the smaller-than-normal crop of White Lady's-slippers. This must have been an "off year" for barely thumb sized orchids, and the field did not show signs of a spring burn.
Geology and fire play key roles in the production of this field of orchids. The plants are calciphiles, and would not exist if not for the lime-rich tufa rock. (A whole blog should be written on tufa rock and I may challenge some geologist to do just that!) It is also tough for them to compete with prairie and woody plants that tend to pioneer on open prairies- without fires. Burning this prairie has become key to maintaining the balance of vegetation, and without the fire- the orchids would not be able to continue in this unique habitat.
For comparision, here is a mid-May photo from 2008. Not only was the bloom count higher, but the orchids were much larger as well.