Showy Orchis (Orchis Spectabilis) is a charming early blooming orchid found in flower from April to June in moist woods, often under hemlock trees. Two broad, ovate, deeply ribbed, beautiful green leaves sheath the flower scape at its base. The four to twelve flowers are loosely racemed at the top of the scape which is from 5 to 10 in. high. The magenta-pink petals and sepals are united to form a hood; the lip, curving abruptly downwards, is broadly ovate and white; each flower has a short spur and is bracted.
The Showy Orchis is our only true native Orchid. It secretes plenty of nectar in the flower spurs and, consequently, is visited by many insects, most valuable of which are bees. As she presses her head firmly in the mouth of the flower to drain the bottom of the tube, her face ruptures the thin membrane of a pouch containing two sticky buttons carrying pollen masses. These become firmly attached to her eyes; the slender stalks holding the pollen bend forward bringing it directly in front of her head, and it is deposited on the awaiting stigma of the next flower visited; surely a wonderful way for Nature to insure cross pollenization.
This species is found throughout the U. S. Another with a single leaf and with the flower lip spotted with magenta is local farther north.
A. Rattlesnake Plantain.
B. Ladies Tresses.
Rattlesnake Plantain (Epipactis Pubescens) is a common representative of a genus having the most beautiful of leaves, all basal and radiating from the fleshy, creeping rootstalk. The leaves are ovate, pointed, dark bluish-green, with five to seven prominent white nerves and many reticulations between them. The scape is 6 to 15 in. high and carries at its top a densely flowered raceme of small white flowers; lip small and sac-shaped, sepals and petals united to form a hood.
This Plantain is quite common and often grows in large beds in dry woods, especially coniferous ones. Because of its beauty and the fact that its leaves last through the winter, it is in demand and freely used for ferneries. It is found in the whole of the U. S., flowering in July and August.
E. repens ophioides has its flowers in a loose 1-sided raceme. The leaves have five white veins and numerous dark cross ones. Has a more northern distribution than the last species.
E. decipiens has densely flowered 1-sided racemes and plain or faintly marked leaves. It is found from Quebec to the Pacific and southwards.
Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes Cernua) is so named because of the braided arrangement of its flowers. The leaves are few, grass-like, sheathing the scape near its base. The scape is 6 to 15 in. high, has several small bracts and ends in a 2 or 3-ranked spiral raceme of white or creamy flowers; petals and upper sepal joined, lateral sepals lanceolate; lip ovate-oblong with a rough tip. Common in moist fields or woods from Me. to Minn, and southwards.