Kentucky Orchids?

Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses

When I envision orchids, I think of the large purple orchids we used to wear to prom. And I expect them to come from the jungles of South America. Yet when I started learning about native wild flowers, I was amazed to see the variety of sizes, shapes and colors found in our Kentucky native orchids. Why am I talking about orchids in October? I found some Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses blooming in the Woodland Garden here at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve today and was astounded!

Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses
This particular species (Spiranthese cernua var. odorata) has been tissue cultured for years and is widely available in the nursery trade. It naturally occurs throughout much of the eastern United States although in Kentucky the variety odorata is very rare. This is a great garden plant because it really has no disease or insect problems and flowers late in the growing season, just starting to bloom now. Notice the unexpected twisting of the stalk.
Fringeless Purple Orchid
The Orchid family is considered the largest family of flowers, with over 23,000 species worldwide, primarily in tropical regions. Orchids found in the wild should be left in the wild, because they depend on fungi growing in the soil to supply nutrients to their roots.
Rose Pogonia
I expect to find orchids only in damp shady areas, and have been surprised to find them growing in bright sunlight, or in the middle of a large grassy field. The name “Pogonia” comes from a Greek word meaning “bearded,” referring to the crest on the lip of most species.
Large Whorled Pogonia
This Large Whorled Pogonia resembles the large windmills being used so much lately to generate electricity. I would not have guessed it’s an orchid at all.
Spring Coralroot
While the Lady Slipper orchids have large showy blossoms, the spring blossoms on this Coralroot are almost invisible, unless you get down on your knees with a magnifying glass!

Lady’s Slippers are in the genus Cypripedium, a word derived from a Greek word referring to a “little foot”, and they are also called “moccasin flowers” sometimes. Orchids are identified by their bilateral symmetry. One larger petal is often a highly specialized complex structure used to promote cross-pollination, such as the pouch in these Lady’s Slippers. See, you don’t have to travel to the jungles of South America to find exotic wildflowers!
Naturally yours,