ORCHIS FAMILY - Orchidaceae: Showy, Gay, or Spring Orchis

Orchis spectabilis

Flowers--Purplish pink, of deeper and lighter shade, the lower lip white, and thick of texture; from 3 to 6 on a spike; fragrant. Sepals pointed, united, arching above the converging petals, and resembling a hood; lip large, spreading, prolonged into a spur, which is largest at the tip and as long as the twisted footstem. Stem: 4 to 12 in. high, thick, fleshy, 5-sided. Leaves: 2, large, broadly ovate, glossy green, silvery on underside, rising from a few scales from root. Fruit: A sharply angled capsule, 1 in. long.

Preferred Habitat--Rich, moist woods, especially under hemlocks.

Flowering Season--April-June.

Distribution--From New Brunswick and Ontario southward to our Southern states, westward to Nebraska.

Of the six floral leaves which every orchid, terrestrial or aerial, possesses, one is always peculiar in form, pouch-shaped, or a cornucopia filled with nectar, or a flaunted, fringed banner, or a broad platform for the insect visitors to alight on. Some orchids look to imaginative eyes as if they were masquerading in the disguise of bees, moths, frogs, birds, butterflies. A number of these queer freaks are to be found in Europe. Spring traps, adhesive plasters, and hair-triggers attached to explosive shells of pollen are among the many devices by which orchids compel insects to cross-fertilize them, these flowers as a family showing the most marvellous mechanism adapted to their requirements from insects in the whole floral kingdom. No other blossoms can so well afford to wear magenta, the ugliest shade nature produces, the "lovely rosy purple" of Dutch bulb growers.