Friday, May 30, 2014

Orchid Colonization

As a youngster, I always thought of orchids as being extremely delicate plants that needed exacting conditions in order to grow and flower.  I probably formed that opinion from watching TV shows in which hothouse orchids expired from encounters with cold drafts or little boy’s fingers.  I held on to my opinion until adulthood, but things changed when I was introduced to some of Ohio’s resident orchid species.  If these plants could survive the wild extremes of our weather patterns, they must possess a healthy dose of toughness and stamina.  The Blue Jay Barrens orchids, such as these Large Twayblades, express some of those qualities.

These orchids are growing in what, 30 years ago, was an annually plowed field devoted to the production of agricultural grain crops.  This exact spot is near the edge of the field in a location that was also used as a travel lane to move harvest equipment in and out of the field.  I planted a White Pine windbreak here 28 years ago that has since developed into a pine shaded strip with a thick bed of needles.  Into this, orchids have arisen.

If these flowers are properly pollinated, there will result a multitude of tiny seeds that are light enough to be picked up and carried long distances by the wind.  Those seeds just have to find the proper environment in which to germinate and develop new plants.

It’s encouraging to think that the cropland soil could recover sufficiently in less than 30 years to be the proper medium for an orchid plant.  This event doesn’t fit my earlier perception of orchid behavior.  Highly compacted, heavily eroded cropland soil just doesn’t seem to be an ideal environment in which to find a plant as exotic as an orchid.

What was once a single blooming plant has become two.  This small leaf, growing beside the two mature plants, is indication that next year may bring a trio of blooming orchids.

Marked by sticks on my walking path is another species of orchid that has found the old crop field a suitable site for colonization.

Ragged Fringed Orchid is a plant of the open fields.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to see when growing in a field full of tall grasses.  Each year I mark those growing up in the trail, but something always seems to happen to them before they bloom.  I’m hoping one will produce a flower so I can get some photos.

This plant is looking quite healthy.  That bud should produce an impressive display.

This one isn’t faring nearly as well as the first.  Weevils have been feeding heavily here.

A third has succumbed to some type of wilt.  I’ve seen Ragged Fringed Orchids blooming in the field in the past, but that was pre digital camera.  I’ve already give it credit for being a tough plant and it has certainly established itself widely across the field.  It would just please me greatly if one of those tenacious plants would favor me with a flower.


  1. You're right, that is encouraging!

  2. Thanks Furry Gnome. It's nice to have documentation that I'm right about something.