Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Small surprises

My foray into the valley between Roundtop and Nell’s Hill this past Sunday produced a couple of interesting finds. Do you know what this photo is of? It’s an exploded puffball fungus. I’ve never noticed one post-explosion before. During the summer the camp kids were excited to see the "green smoke" of spores that spouted whenever I tapped one with my hiking stick. This one is not only post-explosion, it’s likely also in the decaying mode. I found it interesting to see what they look like when they are fully exploded.

The second interesting thing is the little plant in today’s second photo. I just liked the pattern on its leaves and figured it was something interesting but didn’t know what it was. Digital photography is a great help for identifications of anything. This little plant is actually an orchid—a downy rattlesnake orchid. It’s also commonly known as downy rattlesnake plantain, but that name is a misnomer as it’s not a plantain.

It blooms from mid-July to September and the flowers aren’t very showy, at least not in the way a lady’s slipper or fringed gentian is showy. Perhaps that explains why I didn’t notice any blooms when I was walking with the kids down here well into late July. Or perhaps this little plant didn’t bloom until August or September and I simply missed it. Or perhaps it didn’t bloom at all this year. Most of the photos I saw of the plant showed several more leaves and seemed to be at least slightly larger than this tiny version. Notice also a second, even tinier plant with just two leaves to the left of this larger one.

The downy rattlesnake is known for growing out of moss, as this one is, and likes moisture. This past summer was both wet and cool—likely ideal growing conditions for it but who knows what next summer will bring? Perhaps this was the first year for it. I hope I can see it blooming next summer. I plan to be looking for it, in any event.


Woodswalker said...

Congratulations on finding that orchid! And good luck finding it in bloom next summer. I visit a patch every year, and sometimes it blooms and sometimes it doesn't. Orchids are like that. Very sensitive, but to what, no one knows. This summer my patch had only one flowering stem (in past years I've found as many as ten), and some avid mower came along and cut it down. Don't get me started on how I hate this American obsession with mowing.

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: Don't get ME started on the whole grass/lawn/mowing thing! I think I could do an entire blog of nothing but rants against it.

I do know how orchids bloom/don't bloom, too, so I'm really not hoping for much with these two. I'm about half afraid that they broke ground because of the cool, wet conditions here this summer, and that next summer will return to usual hot and dry, which I'm sure those little orchids won't appreciate.

Carolyn H.