Saturday, May 23, 2009

Night of the Living Orchid

Twayblade, Liparis lilifolia

If one knows where to seek them out, Ohio has some lovely, but rather strange orchids called Twayblades. Not as showy as the Lady's-slippers (Cypripediums) or as rare as the White Fringed Orchids (
Platanthera ), it is a mysterious-looking creature in its own right. It might be well suited to star in a horror show, Night of the Living Orchid.

Even the common names range across the board:
  • Brown Widelip Orchid
  • Purple Twayblade
  • Large Twayblade
  • Lily-leaved Twayblade
  • Brown Twayblade

Even stranger yet, the scientific name is also surrounded in confusion, some site Liparis liliifolia, while others site Liparis lilifolia (one i).

No matter what name you choose to call it, it takes a keen eye to find this diminutive orchid in the understory. Its mauve-to-brown colored flowers tend to blend with the dappled colors of the forest floor, and the flatted lip gives it an unusual appearance unlike other members of its family.

Botanical print by Mary Vaux

If you are lucky enough to find one, be certain to watch for its pollinators; it is believed to be fly pollinated, but that has not yet been proven. Who knows what mysterious insect may be adapted to service this botanical oddity. It would sure be fun to be the one who finds out!

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