A Fall visit to the Cedar Glades of northwest Georgia — 2018-11-04

The main reason I wanted to make this long trip was to photograph the uber fragrant Spiranthes magnicamporum or Great Plains Ladies’-tresses orchids. They are not found in the Carolinas, but they do appear in small numbers in the Cedar Glades and Limestone Barrens of two counties in northwestern Georgia. Little did I know, when I left home at 5:15 am, that I would see much more wildflower diversity than I had imagined, and I would also make a new field trip friend.

My good friend, Alan Cressler of Atlanta, Georgia had guided me to the sites for this orchid a few years ago, and I had asked if he would like to do so again. He readily agreed and mentioned that Henning von Schmeling, Senior Director of the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, Georgia would like to join us. Great! Time to make a new field trip friend.

Great Plains Ladies'-tresses orchidGreat Plains Ladies’-tresses orchid

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Part 1 of 2 — Summer comes to the BRP — 2018-06-23

This post is fairly long and loaded with colorful images, so fasten your seat belts!

On Saturday, June 23, 2018, my photography buddy, Alan Cressler met me at my North Carolina mountain cabin to get ready for a weekend trek along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. We each had a list of flowering plants we wanted to photograph, all of which should be blooming this time of year. The cabin is about 25 miles (40 km) from the closest section of the BRP, and it’s not a bad drive at all.

We loaded our gear in my truck and headed off to the Parkway. Our first stop would be at a site very near where we intersected the Parkway. It is a site I found out about just a couple of years ago. The target species would be Liparis loeselii or Loesel’s Twayblade orchid. My friend and photographer, Meng Zhang, had learned about this site from a volunteer at the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center and had passed the directions on to me. This roadside site consists of several large clumps of orchid plants growing on a moss-covered hillside. Each time I visit, I am awed at both the number of plants as well as the collection of last year’s seed capsules remaining on the plants. I shouldn’t be, though, because this is a self-pollinating plant whose pollination efforts are aided by rain drops! Yes, the protective cap covering the pollinia withers away quite readily and allows the pollinia to drop (aided by rain) directly onto the stigma, resulting in pollination. In the image below, notice the flowers in the upper right and upper left. On the one in the upper right, the protective cap is still present, but it is loose enough to allow one of the pollinia to begin to fall from its original position. On the one in the upper left, the protective cap is gone, and one of the two pollinia has already fallen.

Loesel's Twayblade orchid Loesel’s Twayblade orchid

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Part 2 of 2 — Orchids and Lilies and Azaleas, oh my! — 2018-05-05

As I mentioned in my previous blog (Part 1 of 2) about our recent trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, I was joined by my good buddies from Atlanta, Georgia — Alan Cressler and Steve Bowling. On our way up Hwy. 276 through the Pisgah National Forest, I suggested that we stop at a special site for Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids. I certainly did not have to twist any arms.

This particular site is on a foot trail off a gravel forest service road, and is spectacular in that the plants are quite large, and they never disappoint. There must have been close to 100 blooming plants, and they were in perfect shape. Here is an image of one small group to whet your appetite:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady’s-slipper orchid

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Mid-September along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina — 2016-09-15

Mid-September is usually a great time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. This is not my first blog entry dedicated to the wildflowers that can be seen this time of year in this area, so you will probably see some repeats of the flora in this blog entry. Even if that is the case, each year brings a different perspective to how the flowers present themselves and some of the differing color forms for any particular species. If you like bright shiny objects, I think you will like this post.

One of the problems with labeling the images is the determination of the county location. The Blue Ridge Parkway, especially in North Carolina, follows a very winding path along ridges and saddles, and it meanders across county lines numerous times — often as many as a half-dozen or more times in just 1 or 2 miles (1.6 or 3.2 km). So, if you think I might have gotten the county location wrong, you are probably correct. It’s not that important, anyway; it’s just our penchant for pigeon-holing data.

My main goal for this trip was to reach Wolf Mountain overlook In Jackson County. It is located near Mile Marker 424 on the Parkway. I do not feel uncomfortable divulging the location of this site, because it is well known to photographers, botanists, and naturalists, alike. Wolf Mountain overlook is famous among local naturalists for its huge diversity of mountain flora. This time of year, one can expect to see a wide variety of colors up and down the wet cliff face as well as in the shallow ditch at its base. Here is a shot of the view from the parking area:

Wolf Mountain overlook.
Wolf Mountain overlook

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Wildflowers in Southern Arizona — 2016-07-31 through 2016-08-05

Just today, someone (MB, you know who you are) requested that I finish posting the images that I took while on a week-long trip to southern Arizona where we attended the fabulous 2016 Native Orchid Conference in Benson, Arizona.

Disclaimer #1: This is a very, very long blog entry. This blogger is not responsible if you doze off during the reading of this blog entry.

Disclaimer #2: This blogger is not a trained botanist. He is also not intimately familiar with the flora of southern Arizona, and he’s done his best to identify the flora which appear in the images. If you see something that you believe to be misidentified, please bring it to my attention (I will be grateful), and I will do my best to correct the misidentification.


Not enough can be said about the wonderful job that was done by Ron Coleman of Tucson, Arizona in setting up the NOC symposium, gathering the guest speakers, arranging for the motel and meeting sites, and providing food, drink, and snacks for our enjoyment. In addition, he and a number of others did yeoman work figuring out the best locations for the field trips. After all, Ron wrote the books on the orchids of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. I am privileged to count him and his wife, Jan, as friends.

Images of the 5 species of native orchids we saw on our trip (BTW, all new to me) were posted in previous blog entries, so there won’t be any orchid images in this one:

Malaxis porphyrea and Platanthera limosa,
Malaxis abieticola,
Malaxis corymbosa, and
Malaxis soulei.

So, let’s get started…

Disclaimer #3: These images appear in no particular order. They were all made on the NOC field trips to the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. The locations include the Chiricahua Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains, and the Huachuca Mountains.

According to Wikipedia:

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. This has significant implications for natural habitats. Endemism, altitudinal migration, and relict populations are some of the natural phenomena to be found on sky islands. The complex dynamics of species richness on sky islands draws attention from the discipline of biogeography, and likewise the biodiversity is of concern to conservation biology. One of the key elements of a sky island is separation by physical distance from the other mountain ranges, resulting in a habitat island, such as a forest surrounded by desert. Some sky islands serve as refugia for boreal species stranded by warming climates since the last glacial period. In other cases, localized populations of plants and animals tend towards speciation, similar to oceanic islands such as the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador.

Here is an image taken from atop one of the Sky Islands — the Huachuca Mountain range:

Huachuca Mountains -- Sky Islands
Huachuca Mountains — Sky Islands

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“Red Max” and other Rhododendron maximum flowers near the Blue Ridge Parkway — 2015-07-03

Happy 4th of July! (Sorry, England…)

On July 3, Alan Cressler, my botanist and photographer friend from Atlanta, Georgia and I made a day trip up to the Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina area to photograph Rhododendron maximum or Rosebay Rhododendron. I had seen it in bloom just the week before, and I wanted to get some more images of the different color forms. In addition, Alan knew the location of a very special Rhododendron called “Red Max”. The story of it can be found here, in this article about Rhododendrons in Eastern North America.

As a tease with more images to come below, here is an image of that fantastic, one-of-a-kind Rhododendron in full bloom:

Red Max Rhododendron
“Red Max” Rhododendron

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Trip to the summit of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire — 2015-06-04

On June 4, 2015, the last day of the Native Orchid Conference symposium in Gorham, New Hampshire, Walter Ezell and I had 3 or 4 hours to kill before the final scheduled field trip at Tin Mountain, so we decided to take the auto road up to the summit of Mt. Washington. We would be passing right by the exit to the auto road anyway, so it was a no-brainer. The weather was splendid — clear day and moderate temperature with just a few passing clouds. Interesting that the “scheduled” field trip to Mt. Washington (we didn’t take it) was at the beginning of the symposium. On that day, the temperature in Gorham was in the low 40s F (about 5 degrees C) and pouring rain. The word was that the temperature on the summit of Mt. Washington was 28 degrees F (about -2 degrees C) with the possibility of sleet or snow. I decided that it just was not in the cards for me to take that trip in those conditions. But, all turned out well by putting it off for a couple of days.

Rather than give you the low-down on Mt. Washington in this blog, I’ll point you to the official link which has all of the pertinent information about this local landmark — Official Mt. Washington web site. Another interesting website gives the current weather conditions at the top — Current weather conditions on top of Mt. Washington.

Sign at the summit of Mt. Washington
Sign at the summit of Mt. Washington

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Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina — in a cloak of ice…

After hearing that we would be having a visit from the Polar Vortex (otherwise known as Old Man Winter), I thought about the beautiful Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest, and what it might look like if it were frozen.

We don’t often get temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit down South, so this outbreak of cold weather should offer opportunities that we seldom see. Here is what Looking Glass Falls typically looks like in the summer:

Looking Glass Falls in the summer

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Spiranthes orchids along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

I had just told myself that I would not be posting another blog entry until the first week in November when a group of us will meet in the Green Swamp, Brunswick County, North Carolina. However yesterday, I was up on the Blue Ridge Parkway visiting a few sites for Spiranthes (Ladies’-tresses) orchids. There were many excellent sites for these white beauties — some hosting butterflies and bumble bees, as well. I managed to catch a few actually pollinating the flowers. I’m always excited to be able to witness the pollination process.

While I was up there, running around in my truck, I came up on one of the many overlooks that are scattered along the Parkway, when I recognized a lady walking back to her car. I thought she looked familiar, and as I got closer, I recognized her as Becky, the wife of one of my flickr friends, Jim Petranka. How fortunate it was that they were there photographing flowers and butterflies. We spent a bit of time catching up and talking about retirement (Jim will be retiring at the end of May, 2014).

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. On the way to the Parkway, I had to pass by a tall, wet cliff face where I had previously seen Spiranthes orchids along the top of the cliff. When I pulled over, there they were — a line of white spires all lined up about 50 feet (15 meters) above the roadway. Last year, when I visited the orchids, I had found a way up the cliff face from just down the road. At that point, the top of the hill that makes up the cliff face slopes down and is at ground level. So, I grabbed my camera and proceeded to fight the cat briars and loose rocks until I made it to the top. Here is a shot of the cliff face:

Wet cliff face with orchids at top

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