Monday, September 14, 2020

Goodyera pubescens (Wisconsin's Mill Bluff State Park)

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens)
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens)

My next wild orchid encounter happened while hiking through Mill Bluff State Park in Wisconsin. A cluster of Goodyera pubescens (Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid) was in full bloom right next to one of the lightly trafficked trails. There are four species of Goodyera orchids native to North America: G. pubescens, G. oblongifoliaG. repens, G. tesselata. As I travelled west, I luckily had the chance to encounter a couple different Goodyera species!

Also known as the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain orchid, G. pubescence can be found across many eastern and central states, growing in the acidic soils of upland woods. The orchid's common name refers to the fine downy hairs that cover all parts of the plant, especially its bloom spike (the latin genus name is a reference to 17th century English botanist John Goodyer

Mill Bluff State Park
Lightly trafficked trails in Mill Bluff State park, near where G. pubescens was found

G. pubescens blooms with a tightly-packed inflorescence bearing dozens of small white flowers. Another distinctive feature is its brightly colored foliage, which stays green even through the winter. These tessellated leaves very much reminded me of the tropical Jewel orchids (Ludisia sp). The leaves have been used in traditional medicine as treatments for snakebites, burns and other ailments. The orchid is considered threatened or endangered in several areas, but commercial cultivars are available from multiple sources.

downy rattlesnake plantain orchid leaves
White-veined leaves of the G. pubescens orchids

Goodyera pubescens closeup
Goodyera pubescens closeup

Friday, August 21, 2020

Epipactis helleborine (Michigan's Upper Peninsula)

Epipactis helleborine in bloom
Epipactis helleborine

I came across this native orchid almost entirely by happenstance. I had stopped at a beach access point to look over at a placid Lake Michigan coastline.  Although many different flowers were growing along the coast, one particular shrub caught my eye.  There was something different, something familiar about it.  I jumped the fence to get close, and my suspicions were confirmedthis was, in fact, a wild orchid! Further observation identified it as Epipactis helleborine.

Lake Michigan Upper Penninsula coastline
Lake Michigan shoreline--E. helleborine was growing just to the left out of view

So what do we know about this species? E. helleborine is a terrestrial orchid species that grows in wooded areas, swamps and riverbeds around the world, including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. In fact, in the US, it's sometimes known as the "weedy orchid" because of its propensity for invading lawns and flowerbeds.  An audacious little plant!

E. helleborine distribution in the US (Adapted from:

A recent study (May et al (Micorrhiza) 2020) provides insight into how this species is so successful across many terrains.  Like many orchids, E. helleborine develops a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi in its root system.  Mycorrhizal fungi supply the orchid seeds with nutrients essential for germination.  Later, these fungi provide the adult orchid with a carbon source to supplement photosynthesis (organisms that get their energy from multiple sources like this are called mixotrophs).  

In the study by May et al, the authors observed E. helleborine orchids that were transplanted into pots for up to 3 years. These transplanted orchids had to grow without the aid of mycorrhizal fungal networks, relying solely on autotrophic growth (i.e. deriving all their energy through photosynthesis). May et al found that E. helleborine orchids can thrive even without fungal symbiotes. The authors suggest that this ability of the orchid to acquire nutrients through either mixotrophic (supplemented by the fungal symbiotes) or autotrophic (purely through photosynthesis) modes of growth "adds to the ecological plasticity" of these plants.
weedy orchid closeup
E. helleborine closeup
May, M., Jąkalski, M., Novotná, A. et al. Three-year pot culture of Epipactis helleborine reveals autotrophic survival, without mycorrhizal networks, in a mixotrophic species. Mycorrhiza 30, 51–61 (2020).

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Maria's Orchids moves west!

After almost a decade spent living in NYC, I am moving to the opposite coast.  A journey that covers 14 states and almost 4000 driven miles, with stops in nearly a dozen state and national parks across this beautiful landscape.

In the next series of posts, I will spotlight some of the wild orchids I encountered along this journey of a lifetime.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

4 New Orchid Species Discovered in June

June has been a great month for new orchid species discoveries.  Check out these cool new flowers!

Odontochilus putaoensis

This terrestrial orchid was discovered in northern Myanmar by a group of botanists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The orchid has greenish-brown flowers that are about 1cm across.
Odontochilus putaoensis
Image credit: Aung et al, Phytokeys 2018
Odontochilus putaoensis closeup
Image credit: Aung et al, Phytokeys 2018

Pleurothallis hawkingii 

This is a epiphytic orchid from Costa Rica blooms with pale yellow to white flowers, which sometimes have a distinctive purplish hue. It was described by a pair of botanists from the Universidad de Costa Rica.
Pleurothallis hawkingii
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez Phytotaxa 2018
Pleurothallis hawkingii
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018
Pleurothallis hawkingii purple variant
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018

Pleurothallis vide-vallis

Another Costa Rican Pleurothallis species described in the same paper as P. hawkingii, Pleurothallis vide-vallis is a small epiphytic species that blooms with yellow flowers that have ranging degrees of pink hues.
Pleurothallis vide-vallis
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018
Pleurothallis vide-vallis closeups of yellow and purple variants
Image credit: Adam Karremans and Jose Esteban Jimenez, Phytotaxa 2018

Gastrodia kachinensis

Gastrodia are a genus of parasitic orchids, which grow primarily underground.  They have no leaves, do not photosynthesize, and instead feed on the fungi that grow around their roots. Gastrodia kachinensis is a new species discovered in Myanmar by a pair of botanists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Left: A Gastrodia kachinensis inflorescencees, barely visible against the forest floor.  Right: closeup of G. kachinensis
Image credit: Ye Lwin Aung and Xiao-hua Jin, Phytokeys 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Phalaenopsis Gold Tris 'Desk Pot' keiki in full bloom

Phalaenopsis Gold Tris 'Desk Pot' 
About 3 months after I first noticed the start of a spike, my little Phal Gold Tris Keiki is in full bloom!  The flower spike is bigger than the orchid itself, with 4 full-sized yellow flowers. Of course, the mother plant produces larger numbers of flowers and multiple spikes, but this is still one precocious bloomer!

Closeup of Phalaenopsis Gold Tris 'Desk Pot'
The color is less saturated than usual, most likely due to the very warm weather of the last month.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Coelogyne victoria-reginae: new orchid species discovered in Myanmar

Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhyotKeys 2018 (
A group of botanists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with HponkanRazi Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar and the Forest Department Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in China have described a new species of Coelogyne which grows in the Nat Ma Taung (Mt.Victoria) National Park.
Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhytoKeys 2018 (
This epiphytic orchid produces brownish-red flowers that are about 0.5 inches in length (1.2 cm). It blooms in April and May. The species is named after the Mount Victoria region of Myanmar where it was found.
Coelogyne victoria-reginae
Image credit: Zhou et al. PhytoKeys 2018 (
Authors: Shi-Shun Zhou, Yun-Hong Tan, Xiao-Hua Jin, Kyaw Win Maung, Myint Zyaw, Ren Li, Rui-Chang Quan, Qiang Liu
Published in: PhytoKeys (May 18, 2018)
Coelogyne victoria-reginae (Orchidaceae, Epidendroideae, Arethuseae), a new species from Chin State, Myanmar

Monday, May 21, 2018

New orchid species discovered in Thailand: Dendrobium Obchantiae

Dendrobium obchantiae
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)

There are an estimated 30,000 species of orchids, and hundreds of new orchid species are discovered each year. A group from Chulalungkorn University in Thailand and the Department of National Park Wildlife and Plant Conservation published a paper in April describing a new species of dendrobium which grows in the mixed deciduous forests of northern Thailand.

Dendrobium obchantiae full plant view
Photo by W. Buddhawong
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)
Dendrobium obchantiae closeup
Image Credit: Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University (Image Link)

Authors: Phattaravee Prommanut, Somran Suddee, Manit Kidyoo
Published in Phytotaxa (April 27, 2018)