Rhexia alifanus (Savanna Meadow Beauty)

An Oblique Stripetail Hoverfly prepares to land on a Meadowbeauty.

Savanna Meadowbeauty is a striking wildflower found from North Carolina to Florida, and west to Texas. In North Carolina they grow near the coast, these were growing in the green swamp preserve alongside various carnviorous plants and orchids. The flowers are striking and attract pollinators. I was lucky enough to photograph an Oblique Stripetail Hoverfly flying around flowers searching for a reward. Swipe through them to see what the hoverfly was up to!

Asclepias pedicellata (Savanna Milkweed)

Savanna Milkweed, a diminutive milkweed species found from Florida to North Carolina. In North Carolina, the species is listed as a “special concern” and is imperiled in other states. Its population is in danger due to fire suppression and loss of habitat.

The plant grows in open grassland or pinelands, with a fire-based ecology. It grows about a foot from the ground with a bunch of flower buds in the summer. Its flowers are not as showy as those characteristics of other milkweeds.

Pollination of Siberian Iris (INVASIVE)

I try never to post non-native plant species invasive to the North American ecosystem, but these images are too good not to share. Besides plant life, I like to document the creatures that surround and depend on them, and this hard-working bumble bee deserves its 5 minutes of fame. I had previously also photographed a bee pollinating the grasspink orchid that you can see here.

As I was driving to the Green swamp preserve in North Carolina, I kept an eye on the roadside; some interesting plants grow by the side of roads inhabiting a disturbed space. Besides, ditches ran around the roads used to direct rainwater. The trenches thus provide a wet ecosystem for semi-aquatic plants to thrive. Driving by one of them, I saw a flash of blue that needed closer inspection. I had initially hoped it would be the native Irises like the ones I had documented earlier but turned out to be similar-looking Siberian Irises.

Luckily for me, there were plenty of bees working on these flowers in the early cloudy summer morning, perfect for photography, lots of light for fast shutter speeds, but soft enough not to create contrast issues while editing! Enjoy the slideshow of the bee forcing itself inside the Iris!

Rhododendron periclymenoides (Pinxter flower)

Rhododendron periclymenoides, the Pinxter flower or the pink Azalea, is a native azalea found along the eastern coast from southern New York to Georgia. They flower in the spring with showy pink blooms and long stamens with a sweet smell.

I caught these finishing their bloom in the first week of June. Despite being late in its blooming season, it put on a good show, and the old flowers still caught my eye!

The plant is a good substitute for many non native species in the garden. Then plant forms a shrub near the forest floor and is used by birds and animals as cover.

Cleistesiopsis (genus: Spreading Pogonia)

Cleistesiopsis, or spreading pogonia, is a genus of three orchid species found in north eastern America. Despite their similar names, they are not in the same genus as the rose pogonia found from Canada to Eastern US. Flowers produced by the orchid are large and showy, ranging in color from light pale to white. The three species are endemic to eastern North America, primarily south of Virginia to Florida. However, the rosebud orchid seems to have been found in New Jersey, although rarely. 

Because this was my first encounter with this genus, identifying their species was hard. As they are not as widespread as Calopogon orchids, spotting them in the Green swamp preserve was hard. After moving less at less than half a mile an hour through the longleaf pine savannah, I was able to observe four distinct populations of these orchids growing in the preserve. Some flowers were much past their primes while others were fresh. But even the ones done flowering, were still quite a sight to look at.

I would not want to hazard a guess as to the species of these orchids; if others could help me, I would be thankful.

One of my dating attempts was to photograph the inside of this orchid, it was, moderately successful!

Calopogon (Grasspink orchid)

tuberous grass pink

Calopogon, or the grasspink orchid, is a genus endemic to North America. The orchid is frequently found in wet, sunny bogs and marshy areas. The name is Greek and means “beautiful beard,” referring to the hairs found on its lips. Unlike most other orchids, the flowers of the Calopogon are non-resupinate

Found in my trip were the two grasspink species growing in North Carolina, the tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus), and the pale grasspink (Calopogon pallidus). The flowers within the species show considerable variation in color that made it hard for me to differentiate between the species, but iNaturalist was of much help. Shown here are more photos and their possible ids. Please correct me if they are wrong.

The flowers do not produce nectar or offer a reward to pollinators. Instead, the hairs on its lips trick bees into thinking there is pollen for the taking. From the bee’s weight, it falls onto the column letting the pollinia stick onto the bee. I was lucky enough to capture this poor bees misguided efforts to feed itself.

Cypripedium acaule (Pink Lady’s Slipper)

The pink lady’s slipper is a large orchid native to much of north Eastern America. It flowers every spring-early summer and is the most common orchid found in New Jersey. Despite their relative common occurrence, their numbers are threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching. If you wish to grow a Cypripedium in your garden, please make sure to buy it from a reputable nursery like Plants Delights.

The Pink lady’s slipper requires acidic soil and tolerates shade and moisture. Like almost all orchid species, it needs the help of fungi species from the genus Rhizoctonia. Since most orchid seeds lack any food for the plant embryo, the fungi strands have to break open and attach themselves to the seed, providing it with the nutrients it needs to start growing. As the orchid matures and produces more energy, the fungi can extract nutrients from the plant. The 

I found a large patch of these orchids growing in a state forest here in New Jersey. They were plentiful and were multiplying. Seen to the side is a patch of young seedlings still too young to flower. In the background, one can make out the fence used to fence in a large patch of these orchids. It’s necessary to fence them in because the growing deer population eats these orchids. Nevertheless, the seeds of these orchids are small enough to have been blown out of the fenced-off area. These orchids were growing in a piney forest beside a Blackjack Oak.