ORCHIS FAMILY - Orchidaceae: Yellow-fringed Orchis

Habenaria ciliaris

Flowers--Bright yellow or orange, borne in a showy, closely set, oblong spike, 3 to 6 in. long. The lip of each flower copiously fringed; the slender spur 1 to 1-1/2 in. long; similar to White-fringed Orchis (see above); and between the two, intermediate pale yellow hybrids may be found. Stem: Slender, leafy, 1 to 2-1/2 feet high. Leaves: Lance-shaped, clasping.

Preferred Habitat--Moist meadows and sandy bogs.

Flowering Season---July-August.

Distribution--Vermont to Florida; Ontario to Texas.

Where this brilliant, beautiful orchid and its lovely white sister grow together in the bog--which cannot be through a very wide range, since one is common northward, where the other is rare, and vice versa--the Yellow-fringed Orchis will be found blooming a few days later. In general structure the plants closely resemble each other.

From Ontario and the Mississippi eastward, and southward to the Gulf, the Tubercled or Small Pale Green Orchis (H. flava) lifts a spire of inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers, more attractive to the eye of the structural botanist than to the aesthete. It blooms in moist places, as most orchids do, since water with which to manufacture nectar enough to fill their deep spurs is a prime necessity. Orchids have arrived at that pinnacle of achievement that it is impossible for them to fertilize themselves. More than that, some are absolutely sterile to their own pollen when it is applied to their stigmas artificially! With insect aid, however, a single plant has produced more than 1,000,700 seeds. No wonder, then, that as a family, they have adopted the most marvellous blandishments and mechanism in the whole floral kingdom to secure the visits of that special insect to which each is adapted, and, having secured him, to compel him unwittingly to do their bidding. In the steaming tropical jungles, where vegetation is luxuriant to the point of suffocation, and where insect life swarms in myriads undreamed of here, we can see the best of reasons for orchids mounting into trees and living on air to escape strangulation on the ground, and for donning larger and more gorgeous apparel to attract attention in the fierce competition for insect trade waged about them. Here, where the struggle for survival is incomparably easier, we have terrestrial orchids, small, and quietly clad, for the most part.