Showing posts with label Platanthera ciliaris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Platanthera ciliaris. Show all posts

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yellow Fringed Orchid and Pollinator

Blinded by Pollinia - Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) and Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), watercolor, 17.5" x 13.5".

Today I'm interrupting my Sperry Chalet artist-in-residence postings to show you one of my latest art works. This painting was created as my entry to an exhibition that the Botanic Artist Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR), of which I'm a member and officer, is putting on, "Natural Attraction: Virginia Plants and Their Pollinators." The show will be at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, VA from April 6 through May 14, 2017.

I'm really pleased that my painting was selected for the show (it is a juried show). I couldn't have done this painting without the inspiration of Jim Fowler's fabulous photos in his blog, capturing this unique instant as the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is visiting the orchid flowers.

I had hoped to see the pollinator of the purple fringed orchids when I was studying the small population found on Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park) a few years ago, but I didn't see any during the times when I was doing my field sketches. So hats off to Jim, for his extraordinary combination of luck and patience in capturing this elusive occurrence.

The butterfly is attracted by the nectar found in the long thin spur behind each flower. As the insect puts its head near the opening of the spur to insert its proboscis, it comes in contact with the pollen sacs (pollinia) near the openings. The pollinia then attach to the insect's eyes by means of a sticky thread called the viscidium.

As the butterfly visits the flowers, a number of pollinia are collected and later deposited on other flowers where they can fertilize the style, which is also near the opening of the spur. The butterfly can become disoriented when it has a lot of pollinia stuck to its eyes, therefore my title, a takeoff on the song "Blinded by the Light."

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Yellow Fringed and Other Orchids in Fort Valley

Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris).

A month after the VNPS walk in Fort Valley I returned to see how the Yellow Fringed Orchids were doing. This lovely native is high on my list of plants to illustrate for the year, and it's great to not have to travel far to gather visual material for my sketches.

It was a very hot and humid afternoon, and I was glad to enter the shady forest cover. I recognized the first orchid I spotted as the one I'd seen in bud a month earlier, but the spike of this specimen was not in the best condition: small, with some of the flowers blighted. I looked around for more and found several others growing by the small pond.

The buds were showing color, but the flowers weren't open yet, so I looked further afield. Some ten feet beyond the first orchid I saw another deeper in the woods with its flowers open--a much more appealing specimen. As I was skirting around the undergrowth to reach it, I happened to look down, and right by my feet, the distinctive leaves of another orchid appeared.

                                    Leaves and flower stalk of Pink Lady Slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) with Indian Cucumber plant (five leaflets) to the right.
Some of the plants had a couple of old flowering stalks (the flowers long past), and by the shape of the leaves, could be none other than the Pink Lady Slipper orchid--what a great find! I'll make it a point to return next spring to check out the blooms. Prospecting around I found a few more plants, as well as another type of native orchid, the Rattlesnake Plantain, named for the distinctive markings of its leaves.

Rattlesnake Plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens)

There were several of these, one with a tiny emerging flowering spike and another with a large dried seed spike. These other two orchids had not been mentioned during our plant walk a month earlier. I wondered if the VNPS folks didn't know about these other natives growing here, or if they preferred to keep the locations secret, since these are rare species, as is the Yellow Fringed Orchid. I feel so lucky to live near to these unusual and fascinating plants that provide inspiration for my paintings. There's so much here in Virginia for a botanical illustrator!