Three native orchids and some other stuff… 2017-04-26

Those of you who know me well, know that I am easily distracted by shiny objects. The latest, very shiny object to come my way is the cabin that Walter and I recently had built on a piece of mountain property in western North Carolina near the Tennessee border. Now, I am fully aware that talking about such an acquisition is like showing pictures of my grandchildren or our latest vacation, so I will try not to bore you much further. However, I mention all of this to let you know that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth nor have I been raptured. It’s just life getting in the way of other more important things (like a blog).

Back in the saddle: Yesterday, after being notified by several of you that the orchids were in bloom in the Pisgah National Forest, I made the familiar trip up the road (Hwy. 276) to the Pisgah National Forest. However, first, I wanted to stop by the site for Isotria verticillata or Large Whorled Pogonia in the town of Brevard, North Carolina. This site was shown to me a few years ago, and I have visited it each year since then. In previous years, there have been hundreds of plants in flower. Last year, there were only 4 !!! This year, I counted 8 or 9 of them with many smaller, sterile plants showing themselves. I’m not sure the cause of the drastic decline, but it appears that they’re making a come back.

Here are a few shots of some of the plants I saw on this trip :

Large Whorled Pogonia Large Whorled Pogonia

Large Whorled Pogonia

Large Whorled Pogonia

Large Whorled Pogonia Large Whorled Pogonia

This particular species is more plentiful than it’s federally protected cousin, Isotria medeoloides or Small Whorled Pogonia, but is still a catch, in my book. Thanks to some rather heroic efforts of the caretaker of the property, maybe we will be seeing this one again in larger numbers in the coming years.

After leaving the site, I drove the short distance to the Pisgah National Forest where I expected to find Galearis spectabilis or Showy orchis in bloom. This year was a disappointment in that I was about a week or so late to catch them in perfect bloom. It seems that they got a head start on Spring and made their showing without me… In any case, here are a couple of shots of this orchid species:

Showy orchis Showy orchis

The plant in the image on the above right has been chewed on by critters (slugs, bugs, etc.) but the flowers were perfect. I’ll just have to get there earlier next year. This is a very productive site, hosting many different species of wildflowers in a relatively small area. One of my favorites is Iris cristata or Dwarf Crested Iris. They were just getting underway, and I found one that was in pretty good shape:

Dwarf Crested Iris

I’m still on the hunt for the alba form of this species, hint, hint…

Nearby, there were hundreds of Podophyllum peltatum or May Apple. Frequently, one can see large colonies of this species in low, damp portions of a floodplain. Here is a shot taken at a location in upstate South Carolina that shows how this species can cover the ground in a good year:

Large colony of May Apple

All parts of this sweet-smelling plant are toxic except for the fruit, which “they” say is quite delicious when ripe. I cannot attest to that, because I’m never around when the fruit is harvestable. The 2-inch (5-cm) creamy white flower is borne between the two leaves of the plant. Only the plants with a pair of leaves will bloom — the other plants with just a single leaf are sterile and will have to wait another year or so to produce flowers:

May Apple May Apple

May Apple

Just up the hill a bit, in a drier location were the familiar hybrid Trillium plants. When I’ve photographed these plants in previous years, I’ve gotten comments that they were, perhaps, a cross between Trillium vaseyi or Vasey’s Trillium and Trillium rugelii or Southern Nodding Trillium. The dark stamens and ovary and white (light-colored) petals are certainly characteristics or the Southern Nodding Trillium, whereas the darker red petals and almost white stamens are characteristics of Vasey’s Trillium. To throw a wrench into the works, there is another Trillium species in the immediate vicinity — Trillium erectum or Red Trillium. Who knows exactly what these bad boys really are!?! Here are some shots showing the dizzying variety of color forms in the population:

Trillium hybrids Trillium hybrids
Trillium hybrids Trillium hybrids
Trillium hybrids Trillium hybrids

All of these are “nodding” Trilliums with the flowers held directly below the leaves. If there was any doubt that some of the reddish ones are actually Trillium vaseyi, here is a shot showing the dark red coloration in the petals of a true, Trillium vaseyi:

Trillium vaseyi

In one of the above images, there is another flowering plant trying to compete with the Trillium flower. That plant is Tiarella cordata or Foamflower. Again, I was almost too late to catch it in perfect bloom, but here are a couple of shots of the many blooming plants at this site:

Foamflower Foamflower

There were also many drifts of Geranium maculatum or Spotted Wild Geranium in full force:

Spotted Wild Geranium

It was getting to be time to head on back home, but I had to check out a wonderful site for Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchid that I had been shown a couple of years ago. This site is special, because the plants tend to grow in clumps of as many as 7 or 8 blooming plants. Most of the other local sites in upstate South Carolina, have many plants, but they are single or double plants.

What I didn’t take into consideration was the elevation of this site in the Pisgah National Forest. While there may be open flowers at lower elevation, the plants at this site were just getting started. I did find one plant with a flower beginning to show color, but I’m going to have to return in a week to 10 days to get the full effect of the bloom:

Nice clump of Pink Lady's-slipper orchids still in bud

Nice clump of Pink Lady's-slipper orchids still in bud

Nice clump of Pink Lady's-slipper orchids still in bud

Time to head back home. Driving down the Blue Ridge Escarpment on Hwy. 276 toward my home in Greenville, South Carolina, I spotted a small group of Iris cristata or Dwarf Crested Iris just on the edge of the road. Although these were a lighter color than the one I had photographed earlier in the Pisgah National Forest, they were still quite nice:

Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf Crested Iris

It was an interesting setup, because in order to get the best camera position, I had to have my rear end sticking out into the roadway a bit. I did manage to get some interesting looks from passing motorists…

There was still one remaining site to visit on this trip. That site is Eva Chandler Heritage Preserve in upstate Greenville County, South Carolina. As you may recall, I have focused many of my blog posts on this wonderful natural area in each of several wildflower bloom seasons. Today, I would be hoping to photograph some Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids in full bloom. I arrived at the spot and parked the truck. Before I unloaded my camera gear, I wanted to check out the area to make sure they were in bloom. They were, indeed, in bloom:

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

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid

It felt good to be back out in the field photographing wildflowers. April is a busy blooming month down our way, and I hated to miss so many opportunities to visit the many wildflower sites we have that are so close to home. We still have a lot of work to do on the cabin before we can fully relax, but I’m hoping I can free myself up for some more botanizing in the next couple of weeks.

Until then…



  • Michael Drake

    The Trillium shots are fabulous – I’d love to see them

    April 27, 2017
  • Tom Mirenda

    nothing short of exquisite work….as usual

    April 27, 2017
  • Marcia C Whitmore

    How lovely!….and a cabin!? I’ve wanted a cabin in the northern Wisconsin area since a child…..these photos are just gorgeous! Let me know if you ever head on over to Illinois…we’d love to have you speak at our Illowa Orchid Society.

    April 27, 2017
    • Just like Marcia, we would love to see you again at our Illowa Orchid Society in Moline, IL, next time you are in our area.

      June 03, 2017
    • Just like Marcia Whitmore, we would love to see you again at our Illowa Orchid Society in Moline, IL, next time you are in our area.

      June 03, 2017
  • John Fowler

    Interesting and exquisite, as usual.

    April 27, 2017
  • A new cabin….how fun! I’m sure you’re going to get many restful days while there. You’ll have to show us some pictures.

    Today’s photos were outstanding! I swear I believe you just keep getting better. I like to pick a favorite of your beautiful flowers, but I don’t think I can today. They are all phenomenal. 🌷

    Look forward to more of your field trips and to seeing your new shiny object!

    April 27, 2017
  • tammy


    April 27, 2017
  • Liz

    So glad you are back in the saddle! I have truly missed your reports but am glad that a mountain cabin is the reason. As always, your photos are exquisite. I am most grateful that you share with all of us.

    April 27, 2017
  • Walter

    The cabin is not totally off topic. Jim has identified more than 30 species of wildflowers on the property. I expect he’ll be reporting on these as they come into bloom.
    Photos from yesterday are stunning.

    April 27, 2017
    • Mary Alice Stout

      Thank you for sharing. I almost feel like I’ve been on a wildflower hike.

      April 27, 2017
  • Skip P

    Wonderful. I’ve missed your blogs so this was a pleasant surprise!

    April 27, 2017
  • Carol Allen

    Jim, you are ahead of us a bit! I’m out looking for perfect bloom of pink ladyslippers on Sunday! You are an inspiration!

    April 27, 2017
  • Ava Turnquist

    Awesome photos of the large whorled pogonia and the showy orchis! Thank you!

    April 27, 2017
  • Susan Farmer

    Long stamens and a (comparatively) tiny ovary are the traits that I think of as being characteristic of T. vaseyi. You look into those flowers and “all you see” are stamens.

    Pedicel inclination tends to be way too variable within this group to be very useful.

    April 27, 2017
  • sam saulys

    Lovely shots as usual! Your orchids are 2-3 weeks ahead of mine, but the Trilliums are right on time, just not the same species.

    I will expect the full botanical inventory of your NC property on my desk Monday morning.

    April 28, 2017
  • Lee Casebere

    Glad to hear you didn’t drop off the face of the earth. I was beginning to wonder, Jim! It was a pleasure to see your great photos again and read of your day in the field. Hoping for more without such a long lag between!

    April 29, 2017
  • sonnia hill

    Such beautiful photos. I am sure you will be able to work out time for your cabin and for your photography. We are counting on seeing and hearing about your field trips.

    You might have been out again since this blog post. I will keep up.

    May 06, 2017
  • Dave

    Beautiful – shots as sharp as knife blades! Beautifully composed as usual, Jim! Thanks for posting….

    May 11, 2017

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