Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cranefly Orchids
Family: Orchidaceae (or-kid-AY-see-ee)
Genus: Tipularia
Species: discolor (DIS-kol-or)

I took a walk today…a little nippy, but a welcomed change from yesterday’s cold, rainy day. It’s early for my wildflowers, but there are a few to see. The Cranefly Orchid is easy to spot in the winter. The leaves remind me of the annual, Coleus because of their colors. The top of the Cranefly Orchid’s leaf (in winter) is a mottled green, and the underside is shiny purplish red. They usually grow in colonies. There will be several leaves—each a single plant. These late fall-winter leaves are called “hibernal” leaves. The leaves will wither and die in spring, and a 12-18 inch stalk will grow. When the orchid blooms in mid-July, no leaves are visible. The flower of Cranefly Orchid’s flower is very delicate and inconspicuous. It is a towering spike of pale green and purplish tan flowers. Interestingly, it is pollinated by night flying moths.
Other common names are Elfin's Spur and Cripples Cranefly. Cranefly Orchids are not usually available in nurseries since, like all native orchids, it is dependent on fungi in the ground. Another reason it isn’t found frequently in nurseries is the fact that all parts of the plant not considered “showy” enough for gardens.
I once read a quote:
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
No, Cranefly Orchids aren’t weeds; in fact they are on some state’s rare and endangered plant lists. I enjoy finding the Cranefly Orchids, and they are a welcome sight in the dead of winter here at The Cabin Path….especially after the winter we are having!

1 comment:

Larry Brown said...

Great to find this lively plant in such dreary cold weather you have. I have heard of Elfin's Spur, but did not know of its character, color, and season. Nice to know other names for it, and how it is nourished.