Monday, February 19, 2007

Wild Orchid Blogging

Here it is, February 19th...the official start of spring is almost a month away.
I realize for a lot of people that seems forever with the late winter blast of snow and cold air. It's always like that, the end of winter is always the last desparate gasp!
It's not so bad here. Lots of rain, which is normal. The sources are all flowing.
There is a spring in the valley which is shooting a column of water almost a foot.
The little creeks have all flooded there beds. There are buds getting ready to open.
I even have started to bike again. I always seem to run out of steam for a few weeks each year and to get going again is always tough. Maybe this year I will break down and get a new bike.
One intense interest that I have had for years is wild orchids. When I lived in Ohio, I would search for them and find the places they lived. In New York, I would hike in the Palasades every weekend and in the spring I knew where all the pink ladies slippers
grew up on the cliffs over the Hudson River. Most people think of orchids as expensive exotic tropical plants that are impossible to grow. It's true that they require
special conditions to grow, but in most cases, those conditions are pretty easy to provide. I have a white Phalenopsis that was given to me by a friend who was going to throw it out after it bloomed and it is blooming here next to me...the fifth year since I got it and it's bigger than ever.
But, every where, all over the world has a wild orchid population. Since I moved to France, I have been trying to find every variety that grows here and so far I have documented 18 different varieties and many hybrids. Some are so tiny that you would never notice them if you weren't looking for them or so camouflaged and green, that you would never think they are orchids. Some are parasitic plants and do not produce chlorophyll and are white, purple or brown. They each require very specific growing conditions and usually need the symbiotic help of a fungus to germinate. Sometimes, the plants can be dormant for years until they get the right conditions to flower.
So, beginning at the end of March, I start planning bike trips to places I think might harbor orchid populations.
Where ever you live, there are orchids and if you like hiking and natural history, you should check an wildflower guide for your area and see what there is growing out there. I will post pictures as I find them this season and if you send me yours to my email address:, I promise I will publish them and what ever notes and anecdotes you provide!
The picture at the top of this article are two species I found next to each other last year,
a Serapias vomeracea, which aren't really supposed to be growing this far north and the tall ones, Limodorum abortivum.
Here's another, Orchis ustulata, or Burnt Orchid...There are somepretty wild forms, some mimic insect forms like bees and spiders. There is one form here called the Hanging Man....I found some last year and I'll try to get pictures this year! Happy Hunting!


historymike said...

Looking forward to spring in Ohio, but it's at least two months away.

Beautiful orchids you found, Microdot. About the only wild flowers I get near my home are dandelions.

We do have a variety of bulbs planted, though. I have something blooming in my yard just about spring through fall.

microdot said...

Mike, when I lived in Ohio, I hiked a lot in the Oak Openings and there are at least 5 varieties growing there and more in the varied ecosystems of Northwestern Ohio! There are lady slippers, a white spiral orchid called spirea goodyearia (sp?) and the rose pogonia...
I found five varieties, maybe you can find more!

liberal_dem said...

Oh, your lovely green with flowers! We are slogging though mounds of old snow and slush combined with thick fog.

Appaently 'god' is punishing us for Bush's War.

Right, barb??

engineer of knowledge said...

Hello Microdot,
Your pictures are great. I have been very busy also, 10+ hours every day for the past two weeks, and your posting was a nice breath of fresh air to take a moment to relax. Puts a whole new meaning of, “taking time to smell the flowers.”
To Liberal Dem,
I’m sure Barb will have a whole 12 page dissertation on your comment, just as soon as neo-con radio tells her what to think.

Mt. Vernon Floraghrapics said...

You should come to Western Australia and see our native orchids,