Orchids in Transylvania County, North Carolina — 2013-08-05

Last night, I received a call from my friend, Kelvin Taylor, telling me that he had just seen an image of Platanthera blephariglottis or White Fringed orchid from a bog near Cedar Mountain, North Carolina. I immediately knew which bog he was referring to. It is a little-known bog that is home to a host of rare plants including Hexastylis rhombiformis or French Broad heartleaf, Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa forma montana or Mountain Purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia jonesii or Mountain Sweet pitcher plant, and the naturally occurring hybrid between the two pitcher plants called Sarracenia Xcharlesmoorei. Here is a link to the blog post discussing these rare pitcher plants. Now, we can add the White Fringed orchid to the list. By the way, the bog is owned and managed by the NC Plant Conservation Program, and they are doing a fine job of keeping the growth of Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and other weedy vegetation out of the special areas where the rare plants are found.

I set out early in the morning so that I could take advantage of the shade I knew would be in the bog. I did not want strong sunlight, because it creates harsh shadows on the subject and they are difficult to soften in the image. Once I reached the bog, it was easy to find the orchids. From an email conversation with another friend who was also aware of the orchids in the bog, I had very good instructions to be able to find them.

Sure enough, there were two White Fringed orchid plants in full bloom. In fact, if I had waited another day or so, the flowers would not have been nearly as nice as they were today. So, I set about taking photographs of the two orchid plants. The number of flowers on the first plant was more than I had expected. The flowers were large and had rather short fringe on the lip — much shorter that what we see on the White Fringed orchids found along the coastal plain of the Carolinas. In any case, these were quite nice, and I was happy to be able to document their presence in the bog. Here is a shot of the flowering stem on the largest of the two plants:

White Fringed orchid

A closeup look at these orchids reveals a wonderful assemblage of flower structures: petals, sepals, nectary opening, anthers, spur, lip, and fringe:

close up of White Fringed orchid flowers

Yes, that is dew on the flowers. It was early enough so that it had not evaporated before I arrived:

Dew on the flowers of White Fringed orchid

I ended up spending for about an hour at the bog. It was time to head on up the road toward Brevard and the Pisgah National Forest. I arrived at the usual place for Triphora trianthophora or Three-birds orchid, but they had only just begun to open, so I headed on up the road to visit a spot that I had checked out last week — Forest Service Road #475.

A couple of months ago, there were huge potholes from one end of the 6-mile (~10 km) road to the other. Today, however, the road was smooth and pothole free! How refreshing it was to drive up that mountain road and enjoy the scenery without having to look for potholes.

In a few minutes, I arrived at the location, and the first thing I saw was numerous orange “torches” of Platanthera ciliaris or Yellow Fringed orchid rising from grasses along the roadside:

Yellow Fringed orchid

They were scattered up and down the road for about 1/2 mile (~ .8 km), but it was not hard to figure out which one of the Yellow Fringed orchids was much nicer than the rest. Here are some close up shots from that plant:

The large majority of the Yellow Fringed orchids were on the north side of the road. On the south side, were dozens of stems of tiny white flowers belonging to Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis or Southern Slender Ladies’-tresses orchid:

Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis

The blooming stem is about 15-18 inches (38-45 cm) tall, but it is as thin as a pencil lead! Try photographing that if there is even the slightest breeze or even a butterfly fluttering nearby. The flowers are quite small, being slightly larger than 1/8 inch (~ 3 mm) long. The throat of the lip has a dark green blotch that extends almost to the tip of the lip. Here are some closeup shots:

Close by, there were two blooming plants that had grown so close to each other that the flowers were touching. I had photographed this pair last week, but I wanted to get one more shot:

Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis

Well, it was time to pack up and go back down the mountain to check on the Triphora trianthophora or Three-birds orchids. They should now be wide open and begging to be photographed.

I arrived at the parking spot, and gathered my camera gear. When I reached the site, immediately I saw the tiny flowers scattered all thoughout the open woods. I’ve taken hundreds of images of this particular orchid species, but I never get tired of seeing them growing in the forest. Here are a few shots from today’s visit:

The flowers do not bloom on a easily predicted basis, and when they do bloom, they remain open for only about 6 hours. But, there are usually several “waves” of blooming, so if you miss one of the waves, there’s always the chance that you will see a subsequent blooming.

What a great day out in the field! Thanks to good friends who keep in touch whenever they hear about something I’d be interested in, I have been able to see and photograph plants that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I’m very indebted to those who trust me enough to share that information with me. Thank you…

— Jim


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0 Responses

  1. What a great day photography day! Glad you got to see the white fringes before the weekend. Hard to beat the number of fine orchids flowers you saw today. The images are great as always.

    1. I was just about to send you this link. Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for the heads-up on the White Fringed orchid at Cedar Mtn. Bog…

  2. Thanks for the comments on my blog, Jim. Much appreciated. I’ve responded to some of your comments there and won’t repeat what I said here. Would be very nice to see some of these some time. I’ve seen all the Washington/Oregon/BC natives except for one and we are going to go looking for that Wednesday and Thursday. Beautiful flwoers and beautiful photography.

  3. I’ve not seen these lovely plants but blephariglottis is certainly on my list for the future.I may have seen the yellow fringed in Morgantown. You didn’t name it ! As always a fine job done.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Graham! I know you’ve seen its “cousin”, Platanthera conspicua or Southern White Fringed orchid while on a previous trip to the Green Swamp. They are quite similar and differ only in a few minor characteristics.

      I fixed the naming problem by adding a reference to its name just above the first image of it in the blog. Thanks for the heads-up on this…

  4. Another gorgeous post and all the orchids are fabulous, but that Spiranthes really tugs at my heartstrings. That is truly fabulous. Superb work once again on the photography, too.

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