A small collection of orchids

I am surprised to see three purple leafed cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor, below) emerging through the clutter of fallen leaves. Handfuls of more common green leafed craneflies and the few purples were dug by squirrels a year ago. I believe this trio has multiplied from a single cranefly left by the thieving squirrels that has now spread into three. I hope the clump will continue to grow.

The purple leafed cranefly is found less commonly than the spotted, green leaf with a purple underside, but it is found in small numbers most anywhere that craneflies are abundant. The single leaves of the orchid fade and disappear after flowering, and only in the past few weeks have new ones broken ground.

Leaves of two putty root orchids (Aplectrum hyemale, above) emerging on the far side of this mash of azalea, rhododendron, and spicebush (Lindera benzoin) are all that remain of orchids that seem more particular than the cranefly. The two now stand nearly erect through the cover of leaves and beneath fronds of native Christmas ferns moved several paces from their home nearer the stream that parallels the garden.

Spring flowers of the putty root orchid.

Not long ago I regularly passed these and other native orchids on mountain trails, not knowing any existed. Today, after seeing native populations, I search for ideal settings for putty roots and craneflies in the garden, but also rattlesnake plantains, showy orchids. and lady slippers that are native to local woodlands.

I look forward to the mid May flowers of showy orchids (Galearis spectabilis), though they are not particularly showy.

While non-native bletilla and calanthe orchids grow vigorously into thick clumps that are regularly divided to share, the native orchids are slow. Flowers of lady slippers are splendid, but other native orchid blooms are small and of only moderate interest to most gardeners. Of course, I am excited that this small group of craneflies survived the criminal squirrels, and I treasure all the native orchids.

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