Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fairyslipper Orchid

This weekend my husband and I went to the Blue Mountains for a day of relaxation. I had hoped to see some new birds to add to my own personal "big year" list and wandered off into the woods with camera in hand. I could hear birds calling from the tall pines in every direction, but I was having a difficult time actually seeing the birds themselves. After a while my neck was aching so I decided to give it a rest and look down for awhile. The mountains are beginning to come alive with dozens of wild flowers of every shape, size and color so I amused myself with photographing those instead of birds. That's when I saw it. Hiding under the boughs of a small pine was a delicate looking pinkish-purple flower.

It was quite unusual looking so I got down on my knees for a closer look and discovered what appeared to be a tiny orchid. It's called a Fairyslipper. Laying on my belly in the pine needle duff to photograph it I was enchanted with it's exotic look and diminutive beauty.
Fairyslipper orchid

Fairyslippers, I learned later, are found growing in old growth forests across the country. In some areas they are quite common, but in other areas they are considered rare and endangered. They have a single flower on a 2" to 8" stalk that has a single oval leaf coming from a corm beneath the soil. Their root structure is very delicate and they will die if disturbed. Many people try to collect them thinking they will grow in their gardens, but the Fairyslipper has such specific needs of climate and soil that they do not survive.
Whenever I find something like this I always feel like I have been blessed with a special gift. Most people will go all their lives and never, ever see a wild orchid. I, myself, almost didn't see this exquisite little jewel hidden on the forest floor. If I had not looked down at just the right time I would have missed it. I wonder now how many other springs I have been in the forests and never noticed the secret treasures that were hidden there? I'm glad, however, that this spring I got tired of looking up and took some time to look down!