Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hidden Treasure

I was walking in the woods beyond the backyard fence in my in-laws' yard, when I stumbled upon something unusual half hidden under the ferns and trees.


Do you see them?  Look closer...


I had stumbled upon (thankfully figuratively and not literally) one our largest native orchids - Pink Lady's Slippers.


Four Lady's Slippers were in bloom, with colors ranging from the dark pink with vivid veining to a more delicate pale pink.


Lady's Slippers are treasured because they are hard to find.  Only a handful of nurseries sell them, if that - these beauties are notoriously hard to propagate or even transplant.  They only thrive under a certain conditions, which include loose, aerated soil high in organic matter, filtered sunlight and, in the case of these pink ones, very acidic soil.


They are also unusual in that Lady's Slipper seeds cannot germinate without a certain microscopic fungus found in the soil of oak or pine woods. The fungus is necessary in order to break open the seed and give it food and nutrients.


This orchid is fairly widespread, found throughout much of the Eastern United States.  They seem to be fairly common here in Massachusetts, but are endangered in a couple other states.


While Pink Lady's Slippers are long-lived, it takes several years for a plant to grow mature enough to bloom.  They are very susceptible to habitat loss, as they only grow in such a specific environment.  Because of that, and because it is so hard to transplant them, it is inadvisable to pick or move them unless they are in danger of being destroyed.


My in-laws have quite a nice patch of them behind their fence.  There are a lot of smaller plants, giving promises of future blooms.  My mother-in-law says that neighborhood kids sometimes cut through that area to get to the little pond nearby, and I saw a few leaves that looked bent and trampled, so we're keeping an eye on them.


We want this native treasure to keep growing.

22 comments:

  1. if we had wild orchids, I think I'd be growling at the trampling kids. In the nicest possible way, of course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I see any, I'll be sure to do some (polite) growling of my own! So far I haven't noticed anybody back there, thankfully!

      Delete
  2. What a nice find. We have many species of orchid in Texas but not so much around here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was the first wild orchid I've seen growing around (that I recognized, anyway!) Definitely a treat!

      Delete
  3. These are indeed a national treasure. Anyone who has them or sees them in the wild is certainly lucky. Thank you for sharing my very favorite wildflower that are very rare in NY. So rare their locations are kept secret.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mom grew up in upstate NY and talks fondly about how they used to have some around. It was definitely a special treasure whenever they found them.

      Delete
  4. By weird coincidence, this past month I have been noticing several native orchid leaves (no flowers) in a very un-scenic place where I walk my dog. I recognized the leaves instantly and am now following their progress with great interest. They do turn up in the strangest places.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I hope they continue to thrive, and that you get to see them in bloom!

      Delete
  5. As far as I'm aware, these are incredibly rare here too in Blighty. Armed guards required me thinks...you may have stumbled upon a treasure x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried to talk my in-laws into building a special fence around them, but no go :)

      Delete
  6. How wonderful! I have never seen one except in pictures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are the first I've ever seen. I was so excited when I found them!

      Delete
  7. What a wonderful discovery! I love finding treasures like those lady's slippers. So glad that they've got somebody to watch out for/over them now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm definitely keeping an eye over them! At least there's lots of baby plants - I'm hoping they'll keep spreading and doing well!

      Delete
  8. How exciting; when I was a kid, I really wanted to see one of those plants, I think I must have read about them in Ranger Rick. They are still captivating looking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mom talked about them when I was a kid. It was so special to find them!

      Delete
  9. Gorgeous! I just saw some yellow ones this past weekend during a field trip for my master naturalist class. You're right--it's so wonderful to see them growing in the wild. Wonderful find!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a nearby town here in Massachusetts is the gardens belonging to the New England Wild Flower Society, and they are supposed to have several different varieties of lady slippers. When I find the time, I really want to get over there and see their gardens!

      Delete
  10. Oh! I'm in love!! I'm sure your sharp eye and handy camera captured this beauty!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was probably quite funny to watch me taking pictures of the lady slippers. I had to take pictures while being oh-so-careful about what I stepped on, as there were so many baby lady slipper leaves around! There was some strange contorting going on to take those closeups!

      Delete
  11. Hi Indie,
    I have never seen a wild orchid but I've heard about them growing in east Texas. What a neat find! Most people would have just walked by and never noticed.
    David/:0)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was very excited to find it! It pays to be observant!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...