Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Local Find- Orchid!

 A walk in the woods is restorative to my soul.  Whether is it a brisk-paced cardio or a meander, time in the woods is therapy.  Breath deeply, look down and listen up!  Watch the forest floor, but listen to the canopy above for any unusual bird calls.  Once you are tuned into their songs, you can concentrate on what is happening at your feet and you will hear any birds you might want to see.

Puttyroot Orchid, Aplectrum hyemale
 While sauntering along and quick-scanning the vegetation, this orchid caught my eye.  The yellow flowers were an immediate flag.  However, I was not sure which orchid it was.  Most puttyroot orchids range from purple to pinkish brown, while this one was delightfully lemon-lime!  More on this in a bit, for now we'll look at its habitat.

The Stoller Rd. Trail on the North East side of Clearfork Reservoir. 
 There is a little known trail off Lexington-Ontario Rd just north of Lexington, Ohio.  It runs along the Clearfolk Reservoir.  I visit it frequently, as it is always in change.  Each change of season brings new flora and fauna to study on our walks. Fall walks on this lake side trail are often accompanied by the haunting call of the Common Loon. Springtime walks are punctuated with warblers.

Huge micro-burst blow down impacts the woods.
Early in May there was a mini-tornado, or micro-burst that downed many trees on both sides of the reservoir. The trails I usually walk have been closed by down trees and the storm debris.  It has made our hiking route a bit more- circuitous.

At first one feels a loss- all that devastation! Huge trees knocked down in their prime, somehow seems tragic. Eventually the shock wears off and a sense of nature comes back into focus.  This is forest ecology. The woods are constantly changing; blow downs create new pockets of light- and life.

Gray tree frog hides in plain sight.
Study the forest floor as we walk. The seas of Mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum, found here are a common vegetation in Ohio woodlands. They provide habitat and food for the lower forest level creatures.  Look closely and you might discover a Gray tree frog .  Master of disguises, the gray tree frog (as you see in the photo) is not always gray!

Orchids are masters of disguises, too.
Ohio woodland orchids are often masters of disguises, too.  Once you get a "search image" for them, it becomes more easy to find them hiding among the vegetation.  It is not unlike a birder learning to search the trees for the movement of birds.  It just takes a little time and practice.

Delicate petals enlarged for my poor eyes. 
Let's focus on one floret. This photo is enlarged to at least ten times the size of the actual flower.  Although most diminutive, all of the orchid anatomy is there.  The sepals and petals are gathered round the lip of the orchid, a white landing pad and welcome mat for the all-important pollinators.

Unusual yellow form of the Puttyroot Orchid, Aplectrum hyemale.
Puttyroot orchids are often identified by their winter foliage.  It is a large, striped leaf which persists all winter long.  In the spring it disappears, and leaves no clue to the orchid which is about to spring out of the ground.

Without the foliage to lead us to a correct identification, the yellow flowers of this unusual puttyroot orchid was an exciting find!   I thought it might be a real rarity, but calmer heads prevailed. Any day one finds a native orchid in Ohio woodlands is a good day. Finding this yellow form of the puttyroot, which I had never seen before, really got this ol' Weedpicker's heart pumping!

Take a hike- nature is full of excitements just waiting to be found!

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