Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A Tale of Three Orchids

One way that we're able to help native plants prosper at Herrontown Woods is by growing some of them in the Botanical Art Garden (Barden for short). There they can get more sun than is available in deep forest, protection from deer, and more attention in general. For instance, springtime is when I start looking for green-fringed orchids popping up. It takes a sharp eye to distinguish them from the abundant grass and plantains. Each year they seem to pop up in a different spot.

They were first found growing near Veblen House, a short walk up the trail from the Barden, but this year, I found only one up there, and promptly surrounded it with a cage to keep the deer from eating it. 

Then, down in the Barden, I happened to look down and saw another, already in bloom. That one too got a cage to protect it not only from deer but also from people straying off the paths.

Another orchid of the same type, found growing in the All Saints preserve that borders Herrontown Woods, was not so lucky. It was growing in a more remote area, and didn't get a cage. I managed to get out that way yesterday and had a look. Sure enough, its flowering stem had been eaten by a deer. Since its leaves were left uneaten, we can hope it will grow back next year. 

This is an ongoing problem in a changing world. How are the less common native species supposed to survive and evolve as a population unless they can flower and bear seed?

Other native plants in Herrontown Woods that are hard pressed to bloom and fruit unless we give them protection and sunlight in the Barden are pinxter azalea, shadbush, and hearts-a-bustin.