A couple weekends ago, my husband and I went for a drive to parts of the county we had not been to in years. As usual, I scanned the landscape for beautiful vistas and wildflowers. That morning, we saw scarlet-red cardinal flowers, buttery-yellow evening primrose, white Queen Anne’s lace, an intensely purple blossom of a wild raspberry – all fairly common roadside flowers that I can easily identify, even from a distance.
When I saw a yellow-orange flower, somewhat set back from the road, I could not match it with any wildflower that I knew. It took a while for my brain to wrestle with this puzzling image before I asked my husband to stop the car. He backed up and I grabbed my camera. While he waited in the car, I climbed up a small hill and gingerly found my way through some thorny brambles all the while chastising myself for not wearing long pants and my solid walking shoes. I made a note to check my body for deer ticks when we got home.
When I reached the plant, I still did not know what it was but I suspected that it might be an orchid. And there was a small stand of them! Unfortunately, I had the wrong lens on my camera, so the image is not quite as sharp as I would like it to be. But I was not going to return to the car and then climb back up with a different lens…
And up close:
The flowers I found are yellow fringed orchids (Platanthera ciliaris Lindley), and they are fairly common in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and even in the county South of us. However, this orchid has never been reported in my county before, further North and at higher elevations. It was a thrill to discover this beautiful wildflower in its habitat and to add another native orchid to the already diverse list of flora in our area.
Oh, and I did check for ticks and found none.
Reference: Stanley L. Bentley (2000) Native Orchids of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare.