hen one thinks of Orchids, it’s usually of the corsage purchased for the High School Senior Prom, or some of the breathtaking exotic species found at botanical gardens throughout our country. Most are cultivated, hybridized and quite “showy”. Little is known by the average individual of the “treasure trove” of wild and native orchid species that decorate our local woodlands and wetlands. The majority are quite demure in appearance, while many are minuscule in size.
Ten or so years back, I developed an aspiring interest in botany driven by a close friend whose name I’ve mentioned on numerous entries through out this blog. As a semi-retired professional commercial photographer who had decided to pick up the camera once again, I wanted to explore the world of nature at my own pace, hone my skills with unfamiliar subjects and techniques and once again enjoy the craft I love, away from the deadlines and pressures associated with photography as a business and income. It was fun to begin a new journey as a somewhat rank amateur exploring the “natural” world often with more question than answers.
Exploring our woodlands and wetlands for mysterious wild and native orchid species has become a passion and somewhat an obsession. Even during my avian photography expeditions, I always have the gear needed for photographing our “small world” readily at hand. In fact, many of my discoveries have taken place during my small bird photography outings, especially within our nearby Michaux State Forest near my home here in south-central Pennsylvania.
This entry in my blog, as with a few others, have become a “Work in Progress” and updated as I add new species to my collection; and there are so many more to discover, see and photograph.
The orchids in this entry will relate to both upland and wetland species found within our woodlands, unlike my previous entry “Bog Life” related primarily to bogs and fens which include other non-orchid species associated to those ecosystems. A few will be the same species but photographed within a different environment.
I will present these in no particular order, but add new species as I find and photograph them. I’ll include the common names, as well as the scientific Latin names associated with each species. I believe that most folks will find the common names more appealing instead of the technical “mumbo jumbo” associated with the scientific community and botanists.
The orchid pictured to the right is the mid-summer blooming Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid captured within the Michaux State Forest here in Pennsylvania and whose namesake was noted French Botanist and explorer, André Michaux who was noted for his study of North American flora.
Tipularia discolor, or Cranefly Orchid is likely one of the most “Plain Jane” members of the Orchidaceae family you can find. It’s hardly noticeable unless you’re seriously looking for it to begin with; and then it can be difficult to spot among leaves and other brown foliage on the ground, especially with its inconspicuous blooms which can appear to be just a stick poking out of the forest floor. I owe the discovery of this one to friend Merry Stinson who wandered upon a small patch a year or so back within our Michaux State Forest and graciously shared the location with me.
Cranefly Orchids, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
The Cranefly Orchid is considered Facultative Upland (usually occurs in non-wetlands but may occur near wetlands where soils are rarely saturated). These were located close to a stream, but in the dry soil well above it.
Flowers of the Cranefly Orchid, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
The Cranefly Orchid is common throughout the eastern and central United States, ranging from Florida, north to Massachusetts, and west to Texas. The Cranefly is classified as “Threatened” in Florida and Michigan, and “Endangered” in Massachusetts and New York, Although these images were photographed here within Pennsylvania, it maintains a “Rare” classification for our state.
Depending on Geographical location, this orchid flowers between June and September with petals of green, purple or yellow. The main color of the lip or Labellum (the modified petal of an orchid) can be blue to purple, or sometimes green to brown or yellow.
The Cranefly Orchid produces a single leaf in the fall which stays green throughout the winter with purple pigmentation on the underside. The leaf then withers in the spring and may disappear before the plant flowers in the summer.
The primary pollinators are moths, to include the Common Looper Moth, Sharp-stigma Looper Moth, Porcelain Gray Moth, True Armyworm Moth and the Brown-hooded owlet Moth.
Cranefly Orchids, A Pair Intertwined, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
The Cranefly orchids pictured above were a result of my most recent orchid outing, (August 2019) and the initial use of a new lens, the IRIX 150mm F 2.8 Dragonfly MACRO prime lens, of Swiss design and manufactured in South Korea. It maintains the optical quality of the 150mm Zeiss at a fraction of the price. I’m going to keep a vigilance for mores of these orchids in the future.
The images of the Tipularia discolor, or Cranefly Orchid presented above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the lens mentioned above, lighting with the Aputure Amaran F7 LED, support included the Induro CT 214 8X carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.
Goodyera pubescens, or the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid, is one of my favorites to “stumble” on to! (literally and accidentally of course) I won’t even admit looking for them anymore as many of the ones I had previously noted locations for have all but disappeared. I’m not sure if deer are enjoying them as hors d’oeuvres or it’s just their life cycle. Lately, and while photographing another subject, “poof” one or two magically appear to my left or right. However, this is a very common orchid of the Appalachian woodlands where I spend most of my time, and its widespread across eastern and central Canada and the United States, from Quebec south to Oklahoma.
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid cluster, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
The Downy Rattlesnake plantain is an orchid that flowers during late summer and depending on geographical location, can be seen in full bloom starting in July, August or September. It’s a plant of mesic to dry forests and as is typical of orchids, as the roots have a mycorrhizal (a fungus which grows in association with the roots of a plant in a symbiotic or mildly pathogenic correlation) relationship with fungi that supports the plant with the attainment of moisture and nutrients, while the plant provides products of its photosynthesis to feed the fungus it relies on.
Leaves of the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
The foliage of the Downy Rattlesnake plantain is “evergreen” as pictured above, is pretty much visible year-round, and present during the flowering of the orchid. Like some other orchids, the leaves may be present less a stem and flower until the orchid reaches’ maturity.
The flowers of the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid “up close and personal”…
If you look closely at the “macro” image above, you’ll notice that the flower is zygomorphic. (bilaterally symmetrical; or a shape that can be divided into two equal halves by only one plane like a human face) The flowers are resupinate, (a common condition found in orchids that describe the flowers appearing as upside down because of the twisting of the pedicle, along with the pouch like lip on the bottom.) As with many orchids, the flower design can be fascinating.
Known pollinators of this orchid are limited, and differ from the other species of Goodyera, but include the Golden Green and Blue green Sweat Bees.
The legal status based from USDA data show the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid as “secure” throughout most of its range except for two states; and listed as“Endangered” in Florida while “Exploitably Vulnerable” within New York. Again, one of my favorites to pursue in our Appalachian woodlands.
The images of the Goodyera pubescens, or the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid presented above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D (original) and Canon EOS 5D Mark III along with the Sigma 180mm f2.8 MACRO prime lens and the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro prime lens, lighting with the Canon 580Ex Speedlight, support included the Induro CT 214 8X carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.
Platanthera orbiculata, or Round Leaved Orchid is another favorite and my original encounter with this species was through a very close friend, Elmer Schweitzer, and at a slightly different location within the same area. However, a road crew had used a grader to push back soil and debris to create a parking spot for the nearby Appalachian Trail covering up and decimating the plant. A year later I decided to explore the area a bit more and found several more plants scattered about. The one pictured here is a solitary orchid I have been following over the past 6 years, and another treasure of our Michaux State Forest.
Because of stray sunlight coming through the trees creating harsh highlights and shadows around the orchid, I chose an overcast and rainy afternoon for photography and used a flash for highlighting the plant and its surroundings. This is one of my favorite conditions for wildflower photography in general, less any heavy rain of course.
There are two varieties of Platanthera orbiculata, the most common and typical, var. orbiculata, is widely distributed across northern Canada and the U.S., from Alaska to South Carolina. The other, var. macrophylla is isolated to the northeast. This variety is more robust with larger flowers and leaves, and nectar spurs twice the length of var. orbiculata pictured here and one I obsessively continue to pursue.
A view from above
The Round Leaved orchid flowers from June through September based on geographical location. This orchid produces two dark green and often glossy leaves at its base which lie flat on the ground. Common pollinators include noctuid moths like the Large Looper Moth and Green-patched Looper Moth and perhaps a few others.
The single leave of a new discovery nearby
Platanthera orbiculata can be found in mesic to moist forests and woodlands, rather coniferous or deciduous, and occasionally in shaded bogs. It is considered globally secure, however vulnerable throughout most of its North American range and is rare, threatened or endangered within New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee. It has been declared extirpated or extinct within the state of Indiana.
The flowers (tiny ghosties) of var. orbiculata
The images of the Platanthera orbiculata, or Round Leaved Orchid presented above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Sigma 180mm f2.8 MACRO prime lens and the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L MACRO prime lens, lighting with the Canon 580Ex Speedlight, support included the Induro CT 214 8X carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.
Isotria verticillate, or Large Whorled Pogonia Orchid was another terrific find by my friend Merry Stinson along one of the many gravel forest roads in the Michaux State Forest. How she spotted this gem is beyond my comprehension as it and the others blended in well with the surrounding foliage of other species of plants. She marked a couple of the plants with sticks leaving me at my wit’s end until I finally found them.
They are easily confused with Medeola virginiana or Indian Cucumber, and others with the same type of leave pattern. Luckily these were in bloom and easier to distinguish apart from the others, although I had only seen a few pictures, I was a bit forgetful and wasn’t totally sure what I was looking for at first. I found the sticks and then noticed the orchids jogging my memory of a few images I had seen online.
A kind of a fun story goes with my photographic session of these tiny plants , which required me to lie prone, waist and legs extended into the roadway, using my Jeep as a safety barrier from being hit by any motorists sharing the road. A passing Forest Ranger approached from behind the Jeep and must had thought I was injured until he walked up and saw the camera and tripod. But, still I believe he thought I was nuts until I pointed out the orchid and his interest and curiosity took over. We had quite a discussion lasting a half hour or so until he was on his way.
It’s always fun to run into these dedicated stewards of the land, although I always get warnings about rattlesnakes and the “creepy crawlies” that inhabit the grasses and woodlands and I have had more than my share of encounters with not so friendly critters, to include a 4 foot timber rattler that confused me for a log, or perhaps not, and crawled across my back, then turning and glaring at me for a sec and seemingly giving me a smile and reminder of how lucky I was.
The Large Whorled Pogonia orchid can be found throughout the central and eastern United States with populations extending into the Province of Ontario Canada. Its preferred habitat includes mesic to dry forests and woodlands and occasionally near bogs. The orchid can form extensive clonal groups.
It’s joined by the somewhat rare and endangered species of Isotria medeoloides, or Small Whorled Pogonia Orchid which can be distinguished by its smaller size, and green instead of purple sepals. Isotria medeoloides is listed as “endangered” throughout most of its range and is considered extirpated (extinct) within the state of Maryland. The Large Whorled Pogonia is listed as threatened or endangered within Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and possibly extirpated within the state of Maine, but it’s also considered “rare or vulnerable” around the southern, western, and northern edges of its range.
Depending on geographic location the Large Whorled Pogonia orchid flowers between April and June. Pollination is primarily performed by bees, including but not limited to the Mining Bee, Nason’s Mining Bee, Sweat Bee, Golden-green Sweat Bee and the Nomad Bee and a few others.
The images of the Isotria verticillate, or Large Whorled Pogonia Orchid presented above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D (original) and the Sigma 180mm f2.8 MACRO prime lens, lighting by the Canon 580Ex Speedlight, support included the Induro CT 214 8X carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.
Platanthera clavellata, or Small Green Wood Orchid, (also known as the Little Club Spur Bog Orchid when associated with bogs) is one of the most widely distributed species of its genus, from central and eastern Canada and the United States, from Texas to Newfoundland. The images above and below were also captured within the Michaux State Forest. André Michaux, discovered and named this orchid species. So, what location could be more appropriate to photograph and celebrate this tiny orchid during its bloom..
I can remember about 4 to 5 years back almost stepping on this little plant while photographing warblers along a small spring seep under a dark and heavy canopy of trees. Luckily, I was looking down as I walked and noticed this little gem before we had a collision. I had no idea it was an orchid, but I was curious and zoomed in with my bird lens and took a shot with the flash.
I then continued my “avian mode” the rest of the day. Later that evening I processed the image file and did a little research to discover its ID and became excited as to what I had found. This discovery had a major influence on my desire to have the appropriate gear for both Avian and MACRO close at hand during my forest outings from that day on.
The Small Green Wood Orchid is capable of “self-pollination”, although various insects can be seen visiting this plant any time. The flowers are zygomorphic, and the labellum is lobed and has a spur. Depending on geographical location, Platanthera clavellata can flower between June and August in most regions. I must say the buds last much longer than the flowers themselves.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III body, Canon EF 100mm f2.8L MACRO lens, Aputure Amaran F7 LED light,
Kirk Focusing Rail, Induro CT 214 tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH 40 Ballhead
ildflower photography, and especially capturing wild orchids, can be fun, but sometimes a tedious process, however the end results make the effort worthwhile. Working in MACRO (extreme close-up work and often in a 1.1 ratio) adds a definite challenge to the process. I also use the “focus stacking” process for the majority of my work using a very shallow “depth of field” (what’s in focus and what is not) trying to omit unsightly backgrounds, or just for that lovely “Bokeh” (blur) putting more emphasis on my subject for less distractions to the viewers eye.
However, with the use of the shallow depth of field, and especially at such a close approach, it’s almost impossible to get the entire flower in focus thus requiring the technique of focus stacking which consists of capturing multiple images, masking only the sharp areas and combining them in a stack to create a final image. Luckily today the process is fairly automated with modern software like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom. I won’t go into with the details as there are plenty of tutorials on the web.
The LED readout of color temperature and percentage in power of the Aputure Amaran F7 LED
and using the Kirk Rail to make tiny adjustments in focus for the stack of captures…
I use the technique pictured above and many others for my wildflower photography with a wide selection of camera bodies, lenses, lighting and support. I use only the “full frame” sensor bodies including the Canon EOS 5D, 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV.
Lenses include the Canon “L” series, Sigma Art series, Zeiss Milvus (Distagon) series and the “new guy on the block”, IRIX whose 150 mm MACRO has become a “Go-to” for more occasions than not.
Lighting includes both flash and LED and sometimes multiple sources “off camera” of one or the other. Focus is “always” manual and never “auto”. The same goes for white balance, ISO and exposure. You do not want any thing to change during the capture of a “focus stack”. If your shooting using natural light and it changes even slightly, you start the stack over from square one.
Liparis loeselii, or the Loesel’s Wide Lipped Orchid, was yet another amazing find by my friend Merry Stinson and within the Michaux State Forest. She discovered this specimen, and a small group of others in a small isolated wet area located next to a stand of pines nearby one of the forest reservoirs that simulated a small bog, but lacked any other bog type plant species, so I decided to include this orchid species with my woodland orchid collection. The orchid’s normal habitat includes moist meadows, fens, and bogs, as well as shorelines and moist disturbed areas. This orchid is considered “Globally secure” but is rare throughout most of its range.
The fruit/seed pods of the Loesel’s Wide Lipped Orchid
Liparis loeselii, is another one of the orchid species that is extremely inconspicuous and due to its small size is easy to wander by on your botanical outings. For the same reason, its actual populations are truly unknown. As far as pollination, t he orchid is autogamous (self-fertilization} and this is accomplished as the flower ages. Again, depending on geographical location the zygomorphic flowers appear between June and July.
The flowers of Liparis loeselii close up..
Photographing the Loesel’s Wide Lipped Orchid became an “Adventure” on my second outing in the Michaux State Forest. Due to it’s small size, and my desire not to just “shoot down” at my subject, I had to lie prone on the wet ground subjecting myself to what ever “creepy crawlers” inhabited the area and unfortunately, this is how most of my small plant photography takes place. I normally keep myself well saturated with tick repellent both on my clothes and exposed skin and “knock on wood”, so far, these tiny insects have yet to be an issue.
While photographing the orchid, I felt a little bit of weight moving across my back and was alarmed to see a 4 foot Timber Rattlesnake crossing over my prone body and then pause for a second or two, give me a look and then continue on his way, most likely thinking how lucky I was . I’ve had numerous encounters with this species and others, but never so “up close and personal”.
The images of the Liparis loeselii, or the Loesel’s Wide Lipped Orchid presented above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D (original), the Sigma 180mm f2.8 MACRO, and Canon EF 100mm f2.8L MACRO lens, lighting with the Canon 580Ex Speedlight, support included the Induro CT 214 8X carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.
Spiranthes cernua, or the Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchid is just one of the Spiranthes genus found in our state and is widely distributed across the coastal plain and southern Appalachian chain. The ones presented here were very close to the Loesel’s Wide Lipped Orchids pictured above, and along the shoreline of the same Michaux State Forest reservoir in a moist meadow habitat. In fact, they’re sometimes hard to reach without a good pair of muck boots. During a few recent years the reservoir water levels literally cover the majority of the location at times. The grasses can be saturated with ticks so repellent is a must and a “self-check” is the order of the day after any outing.
The “tightly twisted” spirals of the blooms of the Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchid before full bloom
I’d love to spend more time in pursuit for other members of the Spiranthes genus and plan to as I find the opportunities. I’ve been photographing the ones here at this location over the past six years and enjoy them immensely. The image above, “tightly twisted” was captured several years before the more recent pictured here.
A solitary blooming Spiranthes cernua isolated form the rest..
Normal habitats for this orchid include Bogs, disturbed habitats, fens, marshes, meadows and woodlands. Pollination can take place through autogamy and agamospermy; however, the Yellow Bumble Bee, Common Eastern Bumble Bee and Yellow-banded Bumble Bee are known insect pollinators, along with a few unidentified bees. This orchid is a favorite of some crab spiders as pictured below hiding behind a bloom at the top of the plant.
Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchid with a Crab Spider friend hiding at the top
This is an orchid of the late summer and early fall and depending on geographical location, reaches full bloom between August and October, extending my wild orchid photography opportunities along with many other “late season” wildflowers I like to pursue, especially the Gentians. Below is a closer view of the lovely blooms of Spiranthes cernua…
All of the images above were captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the new IRIX 150mm f 2.8 MACRO lens, with the exception of the second image “tightly twisted”, which was photographed with the original Canon EOS 5D and the Canon EF 100mm MACRO; and it was also the older and original version of that lens, and was captured with flash. Lighting for the newer images was using the Aputure Amaran F7 LED light source( single). Support was the Induro CT 214 Tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH 40 Ballhead.
ow is the time to add a bit of colorful drama to the remaining wild Woodland Orchid species and those that really “stand out”, and draw attention from the average passerby. Unlike the demurer ones above that blend well into their surroundings well, the following are far more popular, and sometimes a little too much so to inspire picking and poaching of the plants for personal gardening and commercial sales. Like the ones above, there are still many species I pursue to capture photographically.
Galearis spectabilis, or commonly known as the Showy Orchid, can be found across central and eastern Canada, then south from Quebec to Oklahoma. The ones pictured here were photographed in the southernmost portion of the Michaux State Forest in Franklin County Pennsylvania, and just above the Maryland state line, just a few yards off the famous and well traveled Appalachian Trail. My fore-mentioned friend, Merry Stinson recently introduced me to another location, not too far above this one, that I hope to visit more often this spring. I also have several locations in Dauphin and Lancaster County Pennsylvania that host this lovely plant.
The buds of the Showy Orchid faintly presenting the pink/purple sepals and inner petals
Galearis spectabilis prefers dry to moist forest and woodland ecosystems, and the ones I discover most often, seem to prefer rocky trail edges and sometimes near the bases of large and older hardwoods. I’ve also found them thriving along roadsides, especially gravel. They’re easily distinguished from other orchid species by their 2 basal leaves and distinctive multiple flowers. Like many species of wildflowers, the best photography occurs freshly after the bloom and before rains tatter and discolor their petals.
A Showy Orchid near the base of a hardwood among the scatter of leaves…
This orchid is pollinated by a variety of Bumble Bee Queens, to include the Yellow Bumble Bee, Brown-belted Bumble Bee, Common Eastern Bumble Bee, Nevada Bumble Bee, American Bumble Bee and Half-Back Bumble Bee. In Canada, a smaller orchard typed bee, the Mason Bee is an important pollinator.
A Showy Orchid of the Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania
The zygomorphic flowers bloom from May to June depending on Geographical location and elevation, Above is a closer view of the lovely blooms. The base petals are white with others of pink to a deep purple. Plant height ranges from 5 to 35 centimeters and can be easy to overlook, even with the colorful appearance. The Showy Orchid is purely a favorite of mine.
A closeup of the Showy Orchid Bloom
The above images of the Showy Orchid were photographed with the original Canon EOS 5D and the Sigma 180mm f 2.8 MACRO prime, which replaced my Canon EF 180mm f3.5L MACRO due to its superior color rendition, sharpness and lovey BOKEH from its 8 bladed diaphragm. Lighting was by the Canon 580EX Speedlight using a Sto-fen diffuser. Support was the Induro CT 214 carbon-fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH 40 Ballhead.
Cypripedium acaule, commonly known as the Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid or Moccasin Flower, is likely the most cherished and photographed of our wild orchid species, and is widely distributed across the eastern United States, eastern to central Canada, from Alabama to the Northwest Territories.
There is no shortage of this colorful orchid in our nearby Michaux State Forest although they can be somewhat hard to find at times, and most of us who know their locations keep a “hushed” attitude and hardly ever share the spots with the general public due to the tendency of folks wanting to pick them, dig them up for the home garden or outright poaching, Cultivating these orchids from the wild plant is hardly ever successful and most all of these plants take a number of years till their first flowering.
Early stage of the Moccasin Flower before maturity and full bloom …
Unlike most wild orchids generally pursued with the knowledge of isolated habitats and ecosystems, the Pink Lady’s Slipper can appear seemingly anywhere, and within a various habitat reference including Bogs, forests, barrens, swamps and woodlands, as long as a much needed fungi is available for their existence.
I’ve found this orchid in a mixture of woodlands consisting of Pines, confers and hardwoods. During their bloom spotting them is fairly simple if not hidden by grasses or shrubs as their magenta/red flower sticks out like a sore thumb in the more open spaces. It’s always exciting to find them. At times you can find solitary plants and other times in colonies.
Pollination of this orchid is by the same Bumble Bees listed above with the addition of the Ashton Cuckoo Bumble Bee, Northern Amber Bumble Bee and Fernald Cuckoo Bumble Bee. However, the process takes place through deception as the bees are lured to the flower by their bright color and sweet scent and find little reward for the bee itself. After it enters the flower the bee becomes trapped with only a single exit and during the bee’s frantic escape releases the pollen. Bees learn to avoid this flower resulting in low pollination rates for many of them.
Dueling Ladies along the Michaux State Forest floor…
The zygomorphic flowering of the Cypripedium acaule occurs between May and July based on geographical location as a single bloom sits above two basal leaves close to the ground. The height of the plant ranges from 10 to 61 centimeters. I find the best photography opportunities occur on bright overcast days to keep the rich colors from over-saturating, however in the shade I will often use artificial light.
There are other members of the Cypripedium genus of orchids native to the United states including Cypripedium kentuckiense (Kentucky Lady Slipper Orchid), Cypripedium montanum (Northwest Mountain Lady Slipper Orchid), Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum (Small Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid), Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (Large Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid), Cypripedium reginae (Showy Lady Slipper Orchid) and the Cypripedium reginae ‘Alba’ (White Showy Lady Slipper Orchid), all of which I hope to pursue.
Photography of the above Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchids, including the “title image” at the beginning of this article took place over a number of years and captured with both the original Canon EOS 5D and EOS 5D III using a variety of lenses and techniques. Most were captured using “natural” light.
Platanthera ciliaris, or the Orange Fringed Bog Orchid, and sometimes noted simply as the Yellow or Orange-fringed Orchid, is widely distributed throughout central to eastern Canada and the United States, from Florida to Ontario, and then along the Gulf Coast to Texas. Colors can vary from a pale yellow to a dense orange based on soil nutrients and habitat.
This is the first large and showy fringed orchid I was introduced to by a close friend pictured by the “title” image above captured along a roadside and popular fly-fishing stream in Dauphin County Pennsylvania some years back. (2012)
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation almost destroyed the location by filling the ditch with heavy rocks to curtail erosion and protect the roadway. Luckily and amazingly new plants emerged a little farther up the embankment in areas that remained moist. I still visit this location on a yearly basis.
The image below is a budding plant from the same location photographed last summer. (2019)
A budding Platanthera ciliaris, Dauphin County Pennsylvania
Also last summer, I was slowly exploring a gravel forest road that I had yet to travel over my years visiting the Michaux State Forest when I caught a glimpse of yellow down an embankment while looking and listening for warblers and was excited and amazed to find two blooming plants of the Orange Fringed Bog Orchid, and the first I have ever seen in this forest so close to home. As I mentioned before, I always take a camera and MACRO lenses along during my avian photography outings, so I packed up some gear and carefully descended down the steep bank. These orchids were growing in a small wet boggy spot near a fallen tree of which I had to carefully move aside some of the rotting limbs to photograph the orchids. I am excited about this coming summer and hopefully finding them again, especially since I noted a few other interesting plants around too.
Orange Fringed Bog Orchid, Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
This orchid is pollinated by butterfly’s including the Monarch Butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly, Striped Hairstreak Butterfly and the Whitelined Sphinx Moth as they carry pollen from flower to flower while they search for nectar.
The Orange Fringed Bog Orchid van be found in a variety of ecosystems including the moist areas of Bogs, disturbed habitats, marshes, meadows, prairie and savanna.
Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania
Platanthera ciliaris flowers between July and September based on Geographical location and elevation. For a better idea, the ones photographed in the Michaux State Forest were captured on July 26th, 2019 and the one from Dauphin County on July 16th 2019, ten days apart and was not quite in full bloom. I usually start looking for these during the first week in July and throughout the month and beyond. The plants are normally between 30 and 100 centimeters in height.
Platanthera ciliaris, Michaux State Forest, Franklin County, Pennsylvania
The images of the Orange Fringed Orchids above (with the exception of the “title image” were captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L MACRO prime lens using flash from the Canon 430EX Speedlight with diffusion, The title image was captured with the original Canon EOS 5D and the Sigma 180mm f2.8 MACRO prime lens and the Canon 580EX Speedlight .Support was the Induro CT 214 carbon fiber tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH 40 Ballhead…
s mentioned in my introduction above, My “endeavor of passion” and exploration for wild woodland orchids will continue and this post will be constantly added to and updated as I continue “this work in progress” over the upcoming years with new species and I will note ant events of such…. Just remember to “keep a tight lip” on orchid locations by generalizing and never “exact” to protect these lovely species for all to enjoy and discover on their own.
This article and post is dedicated to, and with My Loving Memory of, best friend and mentor, “in more ways than one”,
Elmer H. Schweitzer
1923 – 2017