Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Large Twayblade Orchid

Growing on this site last June, I found a set of orchid leaves with a bare flower stalk. I thought then that it was probably Large Twayblade, Liparis liliifolia. I came back yesterday to see if I could catch the plant in bloom and found that the whole area had been torn up by the Wild Turkeys.

The turkeys had done a pretty thorough job of turning over the leaf litter. Fortunately, by brushing away a few leaves, I uncovered the plant I was seeking.

A slight bend to the flower stalk was all the damage the plant had suffered. It is as I suspected, a Large Twayblade. It’s so much easier to identify plants when the flower is there for you to see.

Last year it was just the stalk and some tiny pointed bracts that I had to deal with. It’s a nice feeling knowing that I had made a correct identification. It would have been even nicer if I had been wrong and brushed away the leaves to find an orchid I had never before seen.

Large Twayblade is just beginning its blooming period. My notes on Adams County Flora show that this plant should be flowering on May 25. This makes it look like things are pretty much on schedule, except that most of the Blue Jay Barrens plants bloom about two weeks later than those found in the central part of the county where bloom dates were recorded. This suggests that things are running a little ahead of schedule here.

Orchid flowers always present you with a bloom that borders on being unreal. Many people are unaware of the existence of orchids in Southern Ohio and they’ll give me a funny look when I suggest they spend some time in the woods looking at orchid flowers. Most just plain don’t believe me when I tell them there are 13 species of orchids just at Blue Jay Barrens. Of course, many people don’t believe anything I say.
I’ll take a moment here to share a little story that has nothing to do with orchids, but illustrates how people disregard most of what I say. If you want to stay with the orchids, skip on down.

While in college, I was seated across the card table from a fellow student when a bit of ash fell from his cigarette and lodged between the outside of his shirt pocket and his cigarette pack. I watched as the fabric began to burn and form a hole.

Him: “I smell something burning.”

Me: “Your shirt’s on fire.”

Him: “Ha Ha. I’m serious. I smell smoke.”

Me: “I’m also serious. You shirt’s on fire.”

Him: “Stop it.” He begins looking from side to side. “There’s something burning in here.”

Me: “Your shirt’s on fire.” I point a finger towards his pocket where a column of smoke is beginning to form.

Him: “Yow.” He jumps up and starts smacking his pocket to put out the fire. Then he glares down at me. “Why didn’t you tell me my shirt was on fire?”

Me: “I told you three times.”

Him: “Well, I didn’t believe you. You didn’t sound excited about it at all.”

Me: “It wasn’t my shirt.”

Large Twayblade flowers are not self pollinating. In order to get seed, something must transfer the pollen from one plant to the next. This plant is pretty much alone, which could explain why I found nothing but a bare stalk last year

Even though this plant is alone, I did find another population on the next hill that had about two dozen plants. Large Twayblade grows in partial shade and begins to suffer if sunlight is much reduced. I’ll have to watch these areas to assure the plants don’t get overgrown.


  1. very exotic looking! I've been searching for the puttyroot here in Hamilton county but no luck yet..someone said the were here, maybe I shouldn't have believed them!;)

  2. I just saw some Puttyroot yesterday evening. It blends well with its surroundings and is really hard to see. All of the spikes that I saw were a few days from blooming.