Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Rare, uncommon, or just inconspicuous orchids?

Orchids are not as rare or as uncommon as most people think. Orchids are also much smaller, less colorful, less conspicuous than most people think. The reason for this is simple, the ornamental orchids with which we are familiar have been chosen for having large, colorful, and conspicuous flowers. Here is a case in point.  TPP and company have been gathering plant community data at an old field site largely dominated by goldenrod and cool season pasture grasses. But we're trying to record all the species present as well, so you have to look around closely.  So far data on 25 meter square plots have revealed what are probably several green fringed orchids (Platanthera lacera) (confirmation will have to await their flowering and a large twayblade orchid (Liparis liliifolia)(image). Yes, this large twayblade towers probably 10 cm tall with flowers at least 1 cm long!  Neither of these orchids are particularly rare or uncommon in this area, but they are inconspicuous and so seldom seen especially when growing in an old field understory. While most of plants on this old field site are naturalized non-native plants, a number of native species have established themselves particularly prairie species primarily because the site is being managed by regular burning and it has been undisturbed for decades.

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