Excitement was high last week when, at the end of a day of surveying flora in the woods at Menokin, the master naturalists came in to report that they had found what they suspected to be a fairly uncommon orchid growing in the woods.
Master Naturalist Earline Dickinson contacted local botany expert, Ellis Squires, to see if he could make a visit to Menokin to confirm their speculation. The two of them arrived early the following morning, ready to take the trek down the trail to see the orchid.
I decided to tag along and take some pictures. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a walk through the woods with two botanists. Here’s how it goes. You walk about five feet and then you stop while they identify five varieties of fern, spout out Latin and common names, other sites where these plants have been sighted and friendly explanations of why they are what they are, grow where they grow and are called what they are called so us “non-botanists” don’t feel left out. It was fascinating. I loved every minute of it.
About thirty species later we arrived at the place where the orchid had been found. Sure enough, there it was, nestled in the brown leaves, being as delicate and green and purpley-pink as it could in this unusually cool spring weather. Ellis confirmed immediately that we indeed have the uncommon Galearis spectabilis – or Showy Orchis – growing in the woods at Menokin. This plant is fairly uncommon in the area, so the find was a good one.
Also known as the purple-hooded orchis, the flowers are hooded and the namesake of the plant due to the showy, typically bicolored lavender and white flowers. The lavender hood is formed from three fused sepals. Two petals are tucked inside the hood and the labellum (third petal) is longer and white. Plants are slow growing and will form clumps overtime via crown offshoots from the rhizome.
The Showy Orchis is not the only uncommon plant identified that day. Check back for more posts about the other unique and interesting flora that make their home at Menokin.
The Northern Neck Chapter of Master Naturalists are conducting a flora and fauna survey of Menokin as part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grant from the National Park Service that was received in 2012.
The purpose of these volunteers is to help Menokin prepare trails/areas for viewing sheds and soft kayak/canoe public access sites. In addition, the survey will provide information for:
- designing content for maps, guides and on-line resources
- researching best alternatives for piers and viewing stations
- locating and identifying native plants and restoring native habitat displaced during the construction process
In return, these volunteers will receive:
- practice in the roles, taxonomy, and identification of native plants in Virginia
- an understanding of living shorelines
- volunteer hours
- great walks in the out of doors
A recent team of volunteers shared some photos of their work measuring beech trees in the woods along the nature trail.
A botanical survey of Menokin prepared by Lise Maring, Northern Neck Chapter of the Master Naturalists, is available on our website. Scroll to the bottom of the Selected Articles and Books section and click on the link.