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.
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.
Epidendrum nocturnum, the night-scented Epidendrum, is the largest species of Epidendrum found in Florida. It is more common in Central America and the west indies.
This orchid is very rare in Florida but is globally secure. In Florida, if you know where to find it, it is locally common, but due to habitat destruction, it is endangered in Florida. The flowering period is July-January, but it can flower all year long. Most of the flowers never even open. As the name suggests, when they do open, they are very fragrant after the sun goes down. Unlike most orchids, the night-scented Epidendrum can self-pollinate and does not require insect pollinators. It is also common in the orchid trade.
A less showy cousin of the much larger and showier white-fringed orchid (they were growing near each other in pinelands of New Jersey.) The plant has but one large leaves with others being reduced to bracts along its stems. This particular plant was a youngling that was probably flowering for the first time.
There is some controversy regarding its inclusion into the Platanthera genus. I do not know enough about the morphology of the genus to elaborate further.
The spot I found this orchid seemed to have a healthy population of orchids that were reproducing. One thing that concerned me was the thickness of the understory. As this location was used by people and was near a park for human picnicking, the area hasn’t burnt enough. Pinelands is a fire ecology, and I worry about what thick understory would do to the local orchid population.
The flowers of these orchids are not as showy as some others in the Platanthera genus, but that allows us to have a clear look at the twist that results in the resupinate nature of orchid flowers. Most orchids go through this, with certain exceptions like Calopogon. Resupinate flowers are those that twist and turn upside down. As an orchid bud develops, the lip of the orchid is towards the flowering stem (as can be seen below), but as the bud begins to open, the flower twists till the tip point down. In this orchid, you can see the twist that each flower went through.
Goodyera pubescens, the downy rattlesnake plantain is one of the most common orchids found in the eastern North America. Despite its high numbers it can be hard to find. The variegated leaves allow it to blend in with the forest floor. It is a terrestrial orchid with fleshy rhizomes with basal evergreen leaves. The beautiful leaves and its evergreen nature allows it to be seen throughout the year for orchid enthusiasts.
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, 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.
A common native orchid found in eastern united states and Canada, the Showy Orchid, also known as showy orchis, purple-hooded orchid, or gay orchid, lives up to its name, albeit tinily. They bloom from April to June before the forest canopy is fully leafed out. The orchid thrives in humus-rich deciduous woodlands with a slightly acidic ph. As with almost all orchids, they depend on fungi for their seed germination.
These flowers were all over the reserve and indicated a stable population. There were many new orchids with a single leaf out. Most orchids had one or two blooms on them, but a few managed three!
Pogonia ophioglossoides, better known by its common names, Rose Pogonia, or the snakemouthorchid. It is a terrestrial orchid found in wet areas along the East Coast, as north as Canada. It is pollinated by bees that it attracts by its sweet fragramce.
The scent of the orchid was put to words by Robert Frost in his poem titled “Rose Pogonias”, where he says – “stifling sweet/with the breath of many flowers…”
In New Jersey, these can be found in bogs or wetlands, even growing alongside carnivorous plants. As seen in the second photo, couple of orchids bloom alongside an old flower of a pitcher plant.