Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis) April 20, 2011
Yesterday, I was awakened to the wonderful sounds of a wood thrush at dawn. About an hour later, I walked down our driveway and heard oven birds. To cap a wonderful spring morning, I followed my friend's advice and looked intensely in one area for morels. When I stepped down a steep slope, I noticed an unusual color, at first thinking it was probably a phlox or violet flower. Right away, I knew it was an orchid. I quickly forgot about morel hunting.
The species name "spectabilis" is Latin for spectacular--how appropriate! I can't believe I lived here for 27 years and have not seen this orchid before. But perhaps it finally bloomed for the first time after a long time:
Like other members of the Orchid family, it must have certain fungi present in the soil in order to survive. The seeds' outer shells are eaten by the fungi, while the seeds' inner parts obtain needed nourishment from the fungi. This relationship continues as the seed develops into a com, the bulblike underground part oa a flower stem where food is stored. The fungi delivers minerals and nutrients to the corn, which in turn provides the fungi with stubstances that the growing plant has produced through photosynthesis.
Leonard Atkins, Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains
So far, this is only specimen I've found. I plan to protect it as much as I can.
What a glorious spring!