Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - rare? orchid edition

While taking a small group of friends on a wild flower walk, this little beauty was found just a couple of feet from the foot path along with a dozen or more plants.  This is often called the purple twayblade orchid, Liparis liliifolia.  And then a friend asked, "Is it rare?  I've never seen one before." that is a fairly interesting question.  This is a small plant usually just a few inches across the pair of leaves and maybe standing 5-6 inches tall in a much taller meadow-type habitat, and the flowers certainly are not gaudy or bright enough to attract much attention.  The fact is that TPP doesn't know how common or uncommon this orchid may be, but one suspects it is more common than you might guess because it is insignificant and easy to miss.  In an old field meadow, a vegetational analysis found one of 3 species of small orchid (Flora of Comlara Park has pictures) at the rate of at least one for every 5 square meters examined.  But even then just walking through the meadow would not result in seeing anything without being very careful.  These little plants were in plain site but TPP had walked by earlier and missed them.  And if deer are plentiful (they are) and bunnies are common (even with foxes around they are), these orchid are subject to being browsed making them less common, but TPP has seen several others this spring, so maybe a good year?