Thursday, June 16, 2016

Showy Orchis

Very Rare Orchid  (Galearis spectabilis)

Showy Orchis
A botanist friend and I found a rare orchid this week in Carleton County.  This is a difficult species to find and we were delighted to see it.

The Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) is listed as S2, very rare.  It grows in limestone-rich soils
so is found on bottomlands and rich, deciduous woods.  Even in those specific habitats, it is rare.  It blooms in late May and early June.  Its range is from Minnesota and Nebraska east to New Brunswick and south to Arkansas and Georgia.  We found it in a shady, damp site.

The Showy Orchis is a small plant, 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) high.  As seen above, our plant was around 15 cm tall.  The flower is delicate, about 2.5 cm (1 in.) long and has a magenta or pink hood with a white lip and spurs.  Anatomically the hood represents the sepals and lateral petals.  The flower has a faint pleasant perfume.  The leaves are a shiny, medium green and about 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long.

We noticed that the leaves are actually quite unique and located just 2 plants by looking first for the leaves.  They were growing among special ferns, Maidenhair, Goldie and Silvery Glade Ferns.

According to Hal Hinds (Flora of New Brunswick, p.641) this plant was first collected in New Brunswick by Rev. Mr. McKiel at Keswick in 1881.  Unfortunately it has never been relocated in Keswick.

Showy Orchis
The photo above shows a close-up of the delicate flower.  Notice the hood showing the stamens and pistil inside.  I think it looks strikingly like a woman with her hands thrown up in celebration.

Showy Orchis [E. Mills Photo]
Above is a close-up of another bloom.  According to Hal Hinds, the bloom looks like a 'helmeted conquistador sporting a beard'. What do you think?

This rare, unique orchid is one of our natural treasures.  I like to think the beautiful bloom with its gentle fragrance is a celebrating woman of the rich forest.

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