My idea of “escape” includes hiking the local forests and fields in search of wild flowers and great photo opportunities. Thanks to a photographer friend who also loves native plants, I was led to some woodland treasures I would otherwise not have discovered on my own: native orchids. My favorite one is the yellow Lady’s-Slipper (Cyprepedium calceolus).
I was not prepared for how large the plant itself is, about two feet tall, and how striking the two-inch pouch-like flower. There were only two stands of yellow Lady’s slippers on an entire hill side covered with other, smaller orchids and maidenhair ferns. Unfortunately, people love these wild orchids to death – they’ll dig them up and transplant them into their gardens where they die. These orchids have very special growing requirements relying on endomycorrhizal fungi in the soil that just do not exist in an ordinary garden. Why do people always want to OWN things rather than just enjoying them in their true, wild habitat?
Here is a close-up of one of these precious, utterly beautiful flowers:
The same area that provided habitat for the yellow Lady’s slippers, also produced hundreds of Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis), a much smaller native orchid. Only six to twelve inches tall, it produces a respectable spike of lilac to magenta colored flowers with white sepals and petals forming a hood. Their scent was crisp and a bit lilac-ey.
The third kind of orchid was far away from the road so no one could stumble upon them accidentally. Maybe because of their remote location, these flowers managed to form huge colonies covering the forest floor.
The Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is only 6 to 15 inches tall, but has a two to three inch flower which is a pouch consisting of two lobes. The color ranges from a very light pink to a light magenta color.
It was truly thrilling to find these orchids growing wild and in such abundance. A blessed escape, indeed.