I just recently welcomed back a plant that hadn’t been seen at Blue Jay Barrens for over 10 years. The Showy Orchis was commonly seen here 30 years ago. It wasn’t long though, until the numbers of blooming plants began to dwindle. It became more and more common to find plants that had been eaten almost to the ground. And then there were none. Since I personally witnessed a Whitetail deer eat two of these plants, leaving nothing but the bases of the leaves and flower stalk, I figured that the increasing deer population was partly responsible for the decline in the orchid population.
The most colorful part of the flower is hidden from the view of aerial observers. You must get down to ground level and look up into the flower to get the best effect. Like most orchid flowers, the Showy Orchis does a fine job of mimicking a face within the blossom.
Although the plant is small, it is easily seen from a distance in the woodland. The lack of great drifts of spring wildflowers in the Blue Jay Barrens woods may be partially responsible for the clear visibility of this plant.
This particular specimen was found growing on the steep slopes dropping away from a high ridge. If my typical luck holds true, I’ll come back to find that the dead tree in the right of the photo has fallen squarely atop the orchid.
Along with the blooming plant, I found a couple of leaves that looked as though they could be a source of blooms in future years.
The day after finding the orchid, I found a second blooming plant growing about 100 yards away from first. I would like to believe that the appearance of these two plants indicates a resurgence of the Blue Jay Barrens population of Showy Orchis. Unfortunately, I’m too much the pessimist to be entertaining such thoughts.