|Close-up of flower showing the pollinia.|
Two days after our hike on the Mill Prong Trail, I went back to sketch the purple fringed orchids we had found near one overlook. It looked as if showers were once again in the forecast, but my window of opportunity for this rare species was closing fast--the flowers would not last much longer. If I wanted to sketch them for my certificate project, now was the time.
I started out a bit later than I hoped and didn't stop at any overlooks, but a cloudburst came as I was approaching Thornton Gap. I pulled in at one of the overlooks and ate my sandwich in the car while it rained. Watching other people stopping at the overlook was entertaining: traditional families with children or grandparents with grandchildren taking photos, climbing over rocks, couples admiring the scenery, motor-bikers stopping to pull on rain gear, many of these folks international in origins, all this activity was reassuring... the human reactions to the natural spectacle seemed so predictable, regardless of the cultural origins.
After the rain passed, I continued on to my site and parked at a pull-off. I put on my orange safety vest and backpack, and walked towards the orchids. I found six more flowering spikes I hadn't seen before very close to the pull-off. A couple of them were just at the perfect stage, the flowers pristine, but spring water pooled at their feet, and I would have to set my stool right in the middle of the flow to sketch them. I kept on toward the plant I had seen two days before--the lower flowers had been fertilized and were starting to form seeds, but the location was better--I could see the entire plant, including the lower leaves if I pushed the underbrush out of the way. I set my stool next to it.
Mosquitoes and bugs buzzed in the shade, and here I'd forgotten to spray myself with repellent (I'm so allergic to insect bites every sting turns into days of torture afterwards). I'd have no peace to concentrate on my art work, so it was better to leave my stuff there and go back to the car to spray myself.
Back at my task, the plant was not easy to sketch--or photograph. The individual flowers are less than one inch in length, and grow all around the spike in a spiral pattern. They have complex details, such as the long nectary spur at the back that is easy to confuse with the flower stem, and the showy lip split into three fringed lobes that has a spot of white at the base. I probed the flowers gently to better understand the arrangement of their parts and how they all fit together.
|Platanthera grandiflora Sketch of the flowers.|
|Platanthera grandiflora Sketch of the leaves.|
It took a while to do two sketches, which I split into upper and lower portions of the plant. After finishing, I took as many close-up photos as possible and headed home, happy to have accomplished my purpose. It took a lot of effort, but I finally got my sketches of the beautiful purple fringed orchid!
|Purple Fringed Orchid, plant with leaves.|