Sunday, July 19, 2015

Purple Fringeless Orchid

Earlier this week I received a message from Andrew Gibson asking if I was interested in going to see an orchid species that was in bloom in Vinton County. You might recognize that name; Andrew Gibson is a field botanist for ODNR and the blogger of the exceptional Buckeye Botanist blog (which I strongly suggest you check out if you haven't already). Of course, when anyone ever asks you a question like that, the only rational answer is yes.

Purple Fringeless Orchid, Platanthera peramoena
The target species was the Purple Fringeless Orchid, Platanthera peramoena. This species was a lifer for me, making it the 9th Ohio orchid species I've seen (out of 46 native species). I'm a relatively late-comer to the world of plants and can only say I've really been "into" them for about a year and a half now. Of the 9 orchid species I've seen so far, 8 of them have been during this summer. Orchids, of the family Orchidaceae, are a very diverse and well-known group of plants. Most people I've met are surprised to learn that Ohio does indeed have native orchids, and I can't overly blame them; the majority of the ~26,000 orchid species are found in the tropics, but a few are found in more temperate regions. 

Purple Fringeless Orchid Ohio
Purple Fringeless Orchid is a large species, with most of the individuals we saw being over 2 feet tall. Their bright, bubblegum-purple flowers were enough to capture anyone's attention. This species is mainly home to Southern Ohio. It likes moist areas, such as open areas in swamps, roadside ditches (which is where we found the ones pictured), open areas in floodplain forests, and so on. 

Small Purple Fringed Orchid (left) and Purple Fringeless Orchid (right).
There's three very similarly-looking "purple something orchids" species in this region of the US. First, there's the Small Purple Fringed Orchid and the Large Purple Fringed Orchid. In Ohio we only have the Small Purple Fringed Orchid, as the Large is extirpated (extirpation is "regional" extinction). As you might guess from the names, there's an easy way to tell the difference between the Small Purple Fringed Orchid and the Purple Fringeless Orchid. The edges of the Small Purple Fringed Orchid flowers are, you guessed it, fringed. The edges of the Purple Fringeless Orchid flowers are not fringed, although there is still a somewhat "rough" looking edge.

Purple Fringeless Orchid Pollinator
While investigating one stand of the orchid, a Hummingbird Clearwing paid us a visit. Zipping from flower to flower, and orchid to orchid, the moth buried its head in the flowers in order to reach the nectar hidden deep inside. To learn more about the Hummingbird Clearwing, check out my previous blog post on this species.

Thanks for reading!

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