The brittle ferns are there, and the Christmas ferns. There is a clump or two of ebony spleenwort on the slope above the foxes' path, and a woodland full of newly leafing oaks and hickories and black cherries all around it. And there, set apart with that elegant, aloof look of orchids, is the showy orchis in splendid clumps of glossy oval leaves and pick and white flowers.
Orchis spectabilis L.
April - May Hilly woods.
They are never common. But the showy orchis is more common in many Illinois woods than are most of the other orchids, and it is beautiful enough to be known instantly as a member of that family.
The stout stem is se1 with hooded blossoms. The hood is lavender-rose and the broad, extended lip i- crinkled, a pure, sparkling white. The unfurled buds, perhaps, are even finer than the open Sowers. 'There is a delicate fragrance suggesting that of the cultivated Cattleya, bu1 with an element of wildness and a faintness of scent which makes it part of the Illinois woods.
In this fragrance and in this flower is the culmination of all that is fragrant and colorful and compact of the springtime. In the picture are warblers singing in the trees, and a towhee poking about in the leaves near the orchid. In it is the multiple scent of spring, of damp earth. blossoming plum trees, and wild crab apple flowers, the perfume which is distilled in a night in the woods, and in the new odor- of dawn. All these things are in the wild orchis in the woods, in the clusters of Leaves and the stems with their pink and white flowers which express in their transient blossoming the brief rarity of spring.