Friday, June 13, 2014

Wand-like Flowers - White Magic!

Several weeks ago, we came across these dramatic blossoms along a lakeside trail in Lee County's San Lee Park. Commonly called Fairy Wand, for obvious reasons, Chamaelirium luteum is a spring blooming native of rich woods throughout our area. 

Once we spotted the first, it seemed that there were fairy wands waving in every direction. Some were almost completely erect, others distinctly curved, all thriving in the rich soil of the forest understory. 

In the month since we encountered these wand-shaped beauties, we've run into a couple of other native NC wildflowers which evoked a similar association...

Colic root, or Unicorn root, Aletris farinosa.  These lovely spikes of tiny white blossoms, unlike the fairy wand, were growing in full sunlight along a roadside in western Lee County.

As you can see from the pictures, there was an abundance of "wands" to choose from in this particular locale. 

Fairy wand and colic root are both found in family Liliaceae, and these lovely late-spring bloomers were at their peak about two weeks ago. 

But not to worry, there are other wand-like natives just beginning to work their magic.

Our next featured flower is another of our native orchids, from family Orchidaceae.

Ladies' Tresses Orchids have rather diminutive blossoms, as orchids go, but the flower stalk can be well over a foot in height. 

This fine example was growing from a centipede lawn just a few hundred meters from our house in West Sanford, and was tall enough to spot from the intersection at least 50 meters away. 

There are several varieties of ladies' tresses orchids in North Carolina, and we're still working on identifying these to species, but all belong to Genus Spiranthes.

We've observed the blossoms arranged in a spiral pattern as well as a more regular arrangement similar to colic root, with neighboring plants sometimes exhibiting a different arrangement.

There were five impressive plants in this group, all of which succumbed to the lawnmower the morning after we took these photos. 
Then, just this morning as we travelled across town for work, we spotted a colony of several dozen much smaller plants enjoying the bright sunlight on the shoulder of the road.

We snapped a couple of quick shots, but didn't have the time to properly examine these little beauties for comparison to the taller ones growing closer to home.

These little gems have certainly piqued our curiosity, so we'll keep our eyes open for additional examples in the coming days and try to bring you more detailed information about these smallest of our wand-like trio of native wildflowers. 
Meanwhile, we hope you've enjoyed our little sampling of nature's magic wands...

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