Orchis is the ancient name, of unknown meaning.
Perennial. One of the most charming of woodland flowers found in rich, moist woods. New Brunswick to Ontario, southward to Georgia, Kentucky, and Nebraska. Frequent in northern Ohio. April, May.
Angled, few-flowered, four to eight inches high; bracts leaf-like, lanceolate.
Two, rarely three, oblong-obovate, shining, three to six inches long, parallel-veined.
Showy, pink and white, in a few-flowered spike; lip turned downward, coalescing with base of column, spurred below; anther cells near together and parallel; sepals and petals all lightly unite to form the upper hood, pink-purple; the ovate, undivided lip is white.
This is the first orchid of the year; very charming and very beautiful. It dwells of choice in rich, moist open woods, growing from four to twelve inches high. The single, thick, fleshy stem springs from between a pair of shining, broadly oval leaves narrowed into a groove at the base. From three to six fragrant, inch-long flowers are clustered on the stalk, each with a clasping bract, forming a short, loose terminal spike. The small sepals and petals look much alike and together form a pink-tinted and white-pointed hood, beneath which the spreading white lip is prolonged into a blunt spur. The flower-stem is noticeably twisted and the roots are fleshy-fibred.
The domestic economy of the orchid differs so greatly from that of other flowers that with other flowers in mind one is puzzled at first to understand what the orchid is doing. Ordinary flowers bear their pollen at the summit of their stamens with a view of powdering anything winged within reach. But the orchid hides its pollen in two long, deep pockets which botanists regard as one great double anther, and instead of being loose so as to scatter easily it is tied into lumps by elastic cords, so the messenger who carries must take all or none. Other flowers place their stigmas at the end of the style and hold this up so all can see; the stigma of the orchid is a glutinous patch on the blossom's face. The object of all this is cross-fertilization under highly specialized conditions. The orchid is incapable of self-fertilization and unless the wandering insect appears at the right time and place the ovules remain sterile and never develop into seeds. Moreover, the seeds germinate most deliberately and this also tends to limit the number of plants.
Showy Orchis. Orchis spectabilis