Friday, July 9, 2010

More Orchid Leaves

What I would like to have is an identification guide that details all stages of development of all plants and animals from egg/seed to maturity. Fully illustrated of course. It’s frustrating to find plants that you should know, but can’t identify because they are not at a growth stage you recognize. I know this plant is an orchid, so several hundred possibilities have been eliminated. There’s still a ways to go before attaching a specific name to this specimen.

If you can’t identify something, the natural impulse is to look more closely. It’s the visual equivalent to turning up the TV volume when someone is speaking with an accent you don’t understand. These leaves look like those of the genus Spiranthes, but there are still several species to choose from. Time of flowering varies between species, so I closely examine the little stub to see if it’s the start of a leaf or a flower stalk. It’s a leaf. No help there.

Location can also give a clue to species. This plant is growing in the trail that passes the resting bench. I pass this way quite often so I know that no orchid bloomed here before. These must be young plants.

There’s more than one plant. Three less vigorous specimens are growing in the same area. In shaded locations, Spiranthes ovalis, Lesser Ladies’ Tresses, is the only Spiranthes species I’ve found. If I only had something to compare it to.

What a fortunate coincidence that last fall I marked the location of two Spiranthes ovalis growing next to the barn. I mark a few plant species each year, so I can watch how the plant changes through the season. A spider has webbed over both sites, but I think I can break through to view the plants.

Spiranthes ovalis, matching very closely what I saw near the resting bench. This plant flowered last year, so you would expect the growth this year to be less robust. Ovalis blooms in October and until now, I’ve never known what the plant looked like at this time of year. I so enjoy learning new things.


  1. In about 7th grade, I remember my science teacher gave us a project to watch a square foot of ground for one month. We had to mark it off with sticks and strings, then go out every day and write down everything that happened within the markers. That included what was growing there, rain, or even if an ant walked across it. It was an excellent learning experience and taught us to look closely at what was so close to us. I see your blog as a huge version of my science project and I am enjoying every bit of it.


  2. Lois - I remember having the same type of lesson. I chose a spot at the far corner of the school grounds so I could include the time walking to the site as part of my outdoor project time. The teacher was always yelling at me to hurry up.