Summer orchid season
Here it is the end of July already. Summer is zipping by. The good news is that last week and the next couple of weeks will be peak time for summer native orchids. I have seen seven species of native orchid in bloom or near bloom during the past week.
First the bad news. This hasn't been a good year for orchids along the roads. New types of mowing equipment and the need to keep the road sides clear have meant the end of some nice orchid patches for this year, perhaps longer. Those of you who have been waiting for the Yellow Fringed Orchids along what we call airport road between 220 and Clifton, aren't going to see any orchids there this year. The VDOT crews of cut from the road edge to the forest edge right down to the dirt. They don't normally cut so much and the orchids escape beyond the reach of the sickle bar. But this year they mowed the entire bank. If they had waited two weeks we would have had the blooms and if they had done the clearing in the winter the plants would have escaped. But I know they have to do the mowing periodically or the road would soon grow over. Just sad to see old orchid friends get chopped off so close to bloom. Let's hope they return next year.
The Yellow Fringed near the top of Wilson Mountain along 220 are just about ready to open. You have to look carefully since the flowers are back up the bank. Let's hope VDOT doesn't get to this patch this year. There should be more Yellow Fringed around the county. Look in wet sunny areas along roads and fields. Also watch for Purple Fringeless Orchid in wet fields and fence lines. I know of three locations in the county for Purple Fringeless and there are probably more.
Other orchids to see include the most common native orchid in our area, Rattlesnake Plantain. And the most rare orchid in non-tropical North America, Bentley's coralroot orchid. The Plantain can be found in just about any woodland around the county. The leaves are distinctive and the spike of white flowers stands out. Take a hand lens and look at the tiny flowers. Or take your digital camera and then enlarge the picture on your computer screen.
Bentley's coralroot is going to be more difficult to find. There are now five known locations for the little plants in Bath County, two of them found this year. However, among the five locations there might not be as many as a total of 100 plants or so. The plants are seldom more than six inches tall and even people who know them well and look right past them in the woods. Would be great to find more and to find them in Highland County.
Also blooming is Spotted Coralroot and Club-spur orchid. Both should be found in many locations around the county.
There are eight or more orchid species blooming in the county right now. Plus other pretty flowers and even a few Rhododendron still to be found.