Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Downy Rattlesnake Orchid

When people think of orchids they often envision a brightly colored, oddly shaped flower in a tropical forest setting.  It is true that Orchids reside mostly in tropical ecosystems worldwide but there are 46 species native to Ohio and one in particular to the Captina watershed. 

The downy rattlesnake orchid Goodyera pubescens is easy to walk
past in the woods because of its small size.  Most rattlesnake orchids
only measure 2-3 inches across and lay nearly flat on the forest floor.
The orchid prefers rich wooded upland slopes usually under an oak/
hickory canopy although I have observed them under other hardwoods
as well.   Note the lattice work of viens throughout the leaves as a
good identifying characteristic of the plant.

After learning a little bit about the orchid's habitat it becomes easier
to spot them on the forest floor.  Rattlesnake orchids do not flower
every growing season like other native perennials with some individuals
going as long as five years between flowerings.  Factors that
determine flowering events are not clearly understood although they
could be weather or nutrient related.  So, you could imagine my
excitement when stumbling across this plant in the Pipe Creek
subwatershed since it is the only flowering rattlesnake orchid I have seen
in person.  The stalk is less than 18" tall so even at this time the plant is
small in comparison to other perennials on the forest floor.  Note how
dark the setting is even during a July afternoon indicating the thickness
of the over-lying canopy. 

1 comment:

  1. This orchid is a favorite of mine. I don't see the blooms very often, but I always enjoy seeing those leaves.