Cranefly orchids - a winter surprise

No matter how many times I see the green and purple leaves of Tipularia discolor poking through the thick leaf layers, I feel like it's my first time seeing it.

Leaves are dullish green on top and purple on the underside. They grow close to the ground and are easy to miss. Each leaf is a separate plant, and if all goes well, will have its own flower.

It's also known as crippled cranefly, although I've not heard that name until just now, as I look it up to write this, and it is a perennial terrestrial woodland orchid. It is the only species of Tipularia found in North America. It ranges from Texas to Florida, north to the Ohio Valley and along the Appalachians up into the Catskills. Tipularia require rotting wood and the organisms that cause decomposition. Larus Park is a nearly prefect environment with our abundance of rotting wood and leaf matter.

I think there are a couple of reasons that I get excited about it. First, it's an orchid, growing in the woods, absolutely fine without any human intervention. Not all orchids are fussy after all.

Secondly, it blooms in late summer and by that time all of the leaves have disappeared. The flower stalk and flowers are tiny and delicate, and even more easily overlooked than the leaves. Flowers are extremely hard to photograph for the average woods walker like me. So the leaves are not helpful if you're looking for flowers. I always try to remember where I saw the leaves so I can search for flowers in July and August. Maybe this year I will remember to mark some of the locations.

This orchid is pollinated by nocturnal moths in the family Noctuidae. I'll leave a description of how these moths work their magic for another post.

Anotado por jwoody jwoody, enero 26, martes 18:15


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Enero 2, 2021 11:46 AM EST


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