Friday, July 23, 2010

Nature Notes: Cranefly orchid

After years of searching, I finally found the elusive cranefly orchid in flower up in Tennessee!!!  This was cause for much excitement because I've been seeing the distinctive and unusually beautiful leaves of this plant for years now (which are purple on the underside!).  The trouble is that the leaves are out in fall and winter, but then the leaves shrivel up.  They bloom for only a short time in July or August.  The flowers were tricky to spot because they blended in so well with the forest.

I saw this orchid on the Lowry Falls Trail near the Hiawassee River in Tennessee.  This was a short, easy trail along the banks of a little stream that lead to a waterfalls.  It featured some impressive limestone rock formations.  You have to park across the road and walk to the trailhead on the road, but it's well worth the short walk of less than 2 miles round trip.  Even though this trail is located on a busy road, I didn't get the impression too many people do this hike.  Most of the people seemed to be heading to the whitewater rafting outfitters.

Cranefly orchid
(the stunningly beautiful purple underside)
Cranefly orchid leaf
(taken in April on the Approach Trail near Amicalola Falls)

Lowry Falls