My morning with the Ladies… — 2021-04-25

Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids, that is…

After a full day and night of thunderstorms and heavy rain, the morning broke clear and cool. I would have preferred a bit of overcast, but you take what you can get. The trip up to one of my favorite South Carolina Heritage Preserves was fairly uneventful except for the thought of the flowers having been pummeled by the heavy rain. And the thought that I might be early for catching any Pink Lady’s-slipper orchid flowers in bloom.

I arrived at the first site, and as usual, I had nothing to worry about. After walking the short distance from the road into the woods to where the orchids grow, I began to see a few immature plants with their sets of two leaves poking up through the past winter’s leaf litter. A few more steps brought the first of about a dozen flowering orchid plants. Here is the first one I photographed. It is a pair of pouches in a pretty pose:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchids
Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids

In a couple of more weeks, the Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids should be coming into bloom farther up the road into Transylvania County, North Carolina. Oddly enough, the Pinks and Yellows bloom at the same time and, in a few spots, right next to each other. But for now, it’s time to concentrate on the Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids.

As I roamed around in the open woods, I found many plants that were still in bud — the color not yet showing in the “slipper”:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchids not fully open and not yet showing color

Here are a few shots of single plants that were growing at this site:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady's-slipper orchid
Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady's-slipper orchid

After spending about an hour with these wonderful plants, I went to another area of the Preserve to check out if the lonely Trillium catesbaei or Catesby’s Trillium I usually see had shown up this year. Sure enough, there it was in all of its glory:

Catesby's Trillium

She’s a big girl, and I tilted her back so that I you could view the flower from a better angle.

From here, I packed my gear, headed back to the truck, and proceeded down the road to Nine Times Preserve in Pickens County. I was pretty sure that the Trillium discolor or Pale Trillium would be in bloom — at least I hoped so. I get pretty anxious when I visit a place expecting to see a particular species for the first time in the season. I don’t know if I’ll be too early or too late, of if the flowers just won’t show up at all this year. Again, I shouldn’t have worried, because there were loads of them in the wet areas and on the hillsides around the Preserve. Here are some shots of this rather smallish Trillium:

Pale Trillium Pale Trillium
Pale Trillium Pale Trillium

As you can see, the flowers on this species are, indeed, very pale in comparison to the bright, lemon-yellow flowers on the Trillium luteum or Yellow Trillium I photographed near Turtletown, Tennessee last week.

A trio of Pale Trillium

A group of Pale Trillium

There was one last place I wanted to check for a couple of other wildflower species that are sometimes present at Nine Times Preserve. The first of these is Trillium vaseyi or Vasey’s Trillium. It is a deep-maroon Trillium that has its flowers below the leaves/bracts, and it is usually a good bit larger than the other Trillium flowers. I managed to find a single plant in bloom. I tilted it back so that you could see the full view of the flower:

 Vasey's Trillium

Isn’t that a bit special? Deep maroon color with white stamens… What a beauty!

The second plant species I was looking for is Podophyllum peltatum or Mayapple. Its creamy-yellow flower only shows up on a plant with two leaves. Most Mayapple plants have only a single leaf, but those with two branching leaves usually produce a flower:

Mayapple flower

Here is a shot taken a few years ago of the leaves of the Mayapple plant:

Leaves of the Mayapple plant

Incidentally, the fruit produced by the Mayapple plant is edible, although I’ve never had the opportunity to try its gastronomic delights…

The last of the species I had hoped to find was there in abundance. It is the green form of Arisaema triphyllum or Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The last blog post featured a few of the Jacks with very dark stripes, but these are all green. Sort of difficult to spot against the other green vegetation, but pretty spectacular to view up close:

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Although I didn’t see as many wildflower species as on some previous trips, I was very pleased with what I did find. The next few weeks should be full of wildflower adventures and maybe some surprises. Please stay tuned.

Until then…

–Jim

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9 Responses

  1. The first lady’s slipper I ever saw was the pink, it remains my favorite, and is the rarest of the half dozen slipper species found in NW Indiana. Very nice photo of the twins.

  2. Amazing photos, next best thing to actually being there. Great experience just to read and see them on the blog.

  3. Magnificent blooms and fantastic photos (in spite of the lack of cloud cover). I love your posts and in times where travel in Europe is difficult, it is especially appreciated.

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