Monotropa hypopitys, or the pinesap, is a cousin of the more common ghost pipe. Both plants are parasitic depending on mycorrhizal fungi found in the forest floor. Unlike its cousin, Monotropa uniflora, pinesap flowers with multiple blooms on a single flowering stem. Like the ghost pipe, it can be found growing near oaks and pines.
The flower colors are varid, from yellow to purple/red. This is a rare plant in New Jersey with few populations recorded. I was lucky enough to find at least three distinct populations growing in a hilly portion of Jersey. One was flowering, while ther other was past its prime and beginning to fruit.
Narrowleaf cow-wheat is a native herbaceous hemiparasitic annual. Its root structure invades the roots of other plants and allows it to extract nutrients from them. Cow-wheat can be found in common well-draining parts of New Jersey. These were near a cranberry bog along a roadside.
The flowers are interesting to look at, mainly because of their drawbridge-like bud opening! They are easy to miss if you don’t look for small flowers around you.
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.
Swamp Milkweed is a tall moisture-loving plant found growing near bogs, swamps, fens, and streams. It prefers sunny spots where it flowers on a terminal spike in the summer. The flowers are showy pink to purple and carry nectar that attracts multiple pollinators. Shown here is a bumblebee trying to find its balance on swaying milkweed. It is a common species found across most of the continental US and into Canada. It is an excellent addition to any pollinator-friendly garden as its flowers are both showy and wonderfully scented.
Allium tricoccum, commonly known as a ramp or my favorite Small white leek. It is a native species of wild onion found across Canada and the eastern United States. A perennial plant growing from a conical bulb, like other onion/garlic species, produces broad leaves in early spring. Each cluster of bulbs produces a single flowering stalk. Unlike other members of its genus, flowering occurs after the leaves have all died back. Hence it gives rise to a unique display on the forest floor. I had initially suspected this was a parasitic plant from its lack of leaves and time of flower.
These were found in New York state near Ithaca in OD Von Engeln preserve a property managed by the nature conservancy.
Rhynchospora latifoliaor the Sand-swamp whitetop sedge is a splendid-looking sedge species found in the southeastern states. Three species of whitetop sedges grow in the United States; two are native to the southeast state, while the third is endemic to Florida. Like other Sedge species belonging to the same family, distinguishing them is not easy. I am relying on the seeks app, which told me what species I had observed.
The whitetop sedge is a perennial plant growing in open grasslands and pine bogs; I took these photographs in the Green swamp preserve. Whitetop Sedge was possibly the most impressive plant that was not on my “to-see” list when I visited North Carolina. It was a pleasant surprise to walk into an open savannah covered with large white Inflorescences. It seems to attract many bumblebees; it was nearly impossible to photograph them without capturing a bumblebee working its way through the flowers!
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!
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.
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!