JUST ONE: Rein Orchids

This entry in my “Just One” series about Pacific Northwest plants is actually about two wildflowers that look alike at first glance. It has taken me a long time to identify and differentiate them. They’re both Rein orchids – small, delicate wildflowers that most people have never heard of and would not notice, even if they walked right past them. But bear with me – they’re really quite beautiful.

1. A group of Elegant Rein orchids at Kukutali Preserve; July, 2019.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with Rein orchids ever since discovering one in a hidden spot off a preserve trail two weeks after we moved to Fidalgo Island. I could tell it was an orchid but I’d never seen anything quite like it. A year later I found the little orchid again, this time in five different places. As I studied my photos I could see that some were different from the others, but when I tried to identify them I was met with a jumble of look-alike species and a veritable morass of names.

Learning that their leaves emerge in late winter, I reminded myself to search for the leaves where I’d seen the orchids in the summer. Sure enough, in February I found healthy, oval leaves, pressed close to the ground, gathering energy so the plant could flower in the summer. They had to be the Rein orchid plants.

This year I resolved to better understand the science of what I was seeing. I wanted to at least know the proper names of these pretty flowers, though I believe that names and science aren’t the only tools for understanding our experience of the natural world. There are less logic-based ways to understand the world which are just as important, but I value science – and I was itching to figure out which is which! A website called inaturalist has been very helpful; I can compare what other people have photographed and identified with my own sightings. I feel fairly confident now that I’ve been seeing two species of Rein orchids here on Fidalgo Island: Platanthera elegans and Platanthera transversa. There’s something tantalizingly poetic about these slender sprites that hide in plain sight.

2. A Rein orchid in the woods on a summer afternoon.


The Rein orchids wait patiently,

gilded grasses swaying around them, faint

bay breezes rustling the dry Madrone leaves

at their feet. Spiders craft

sticky thread-worlds on their petals,

motorboats rumble in the distance,

occasional bursts of human voices

fade as quickly as they appear. The orchids

wait for the night

and the pollinators, for the arrival

of soft wings and probing tongues,

the woosh, the slurp, the brush of feet and antennae.

This is the reward of patience, or so I imagine

because our encounters, however sweet, are

never by moonlight. We soak the midsummer sun

together, the Rein orchids and I. The heat pricks my nose

with the fragrance of dry grass and cedar, and

encourages petals and roots to stretch. It relaxes

my stiff neck. Slowly the orchids’ nectar ripens

to satisfy the single species of moth that

might pollinate a tiny flower. Let it happen.

Let it happen and

let me find another fairy tale cluster

of slim white stems nestled in the warm grass

next year.


3. Platanthera elegans at Kukutali Preserve.


5. A Rein orchid under a Madrone tree.

Orchids are fascinating. The pretty corsages you see at weddings evolved their colors and curves for very specific reasons, having nothing to do with humans. Evolutionarily advanced, orchids have developed thousands of distinctive ways to attract their pollinators. As Darwin said, β€œThe contrivances for insect fertilization in Orchids are multiform & truly wonderful & beautiful.” As orchid species evolve, their pollinators evolve too, resulting in very specific, even exclusive relationships between plant and pollinator. Orchids often trick their pollinators, which can be bees, hummingbirds, moths, even birds. It’s theorized that the tricks employed by orchids to attract pollinators result in a greater fertilization success rate – as the specialist keeps visiting its favorite orchid species, the orchid pollen it collects isn’t wasted on other flower species.

The first orchid appeared on earth’s evolutionary stage some 100 million years ago; the family now comprises as many as 28,000 different species. Many grow high in trees, some thrive high in the mountains, a few live above the Arctic Circle, most grow in the tropics, and one exists entirely underground.


6. The Flat-spurred Rein orchid, Platanthera transversa. (This photo was somewhat desaturated in processing.)
7. Another Flat-spurred Rein orchid and a single fine spider thread. Photo slightly desaturated.

8. A Flat-spurred Rein orchid with the background darkened in processing. Is this the way the orchids look on a moonlit night? Their moth pollinators might know.

9. Two lovely Flat-spurred Rein orchids growing up through Douglas fir and Bearberry at Goose Rock, Deception Pass State Park. Follow this link to see a preserved Rein orchid collected on July 15, 1936 for the University of Washington’s Burke Herbarium, also from Goose Rock. This land was preserved as a state park. The species continues.

The Platanthera genus contains around 100 species; 45 are native to North America. At least two – P. elegans and P. transversa – grow close to my home. They are the orchids pictured here. Neither one has a fixed common name but P. elegans is sometimes called the Elegant Rein orchid. Apparently, our P. elegans is a subspecies, P. elegans elegans, the Coast Piperia. (Piperia is after Charles V. Piper, an American botanist and an authority on Pacific Northwest plants). P. transversa (pictured just above) is called the Flat-spurred Rein orchid, or sometimes the Royal Rein orchid. Flat-spurred refers to the long flower spur where the nectar is. It extends out horizontally on each little flower, clearly visible in photos #6 and 18. Another similar species (P. unalascensis) probably grows here as well but I haven’t seen it yet. These flowers are challenging!

Rein orchids on Fidalgo Island favor relatively dry, partly shady conditions. They grow near Douglas fir, and frequently under Madrone trees, which also like drier places. Clusters of Rein orchids can be seen hugging steep slopes facing the water and single flowers may be scattered near trails in open woods, where they get a little more sun than they would in a dense forest. I’ve noticed the presence of another small orchid, the Rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia), can be a clue that Rein orchids may be nearby. It surprises me that no one picks them or tramples them. Maybe that’s the cynical New Yorker in me, expecting nature to be destroyed by hordes of heedless humans. More likely, people don’t see them in the first place. Flower stalks are just a foot or two (20 – 55cm) tall and the flowers don’t sport bright colors. If I show a Rein orchid to someone the reaction is puzzlement and slight disappointment – that’s an orchid? You have to bend down and really look hard to see the graceful flowers. I think their small stature and pale colors are keeping them safe.


10. A Coast Piperia orchid emerges from a sheltered spot littered with fallen Madrone leaves.

11. As if to prove its affinity for Madrone trees, this orchid wears a Madrone leaf. A notch in the leaf caught it on the stalk. I should go back and see if it’s still there.

12. A Coast Piperia orchid among wild grasses and yellow Hairy Cat’s ear flowers (Hypochaeris radicata) at Kukutali Preserve.

13. Rein orchids at Sharpe Park, photographed out-of-focus with a vintage Takumar lens.

14. This photo was also made with the vintage lens, and processed using the Silver Efex antique plate effect.

15. A Rein orchid in the woods at Washington Park photographed with the vintage lens.

A deeper dive into the strange world of orchid reproduction

Rein orchids are summer bloomers whose leaves emerge in late winter. The orchids are busy photosynthesizing well before many other plants are visible. By July the stalk appears, buds begin to open, and the leaves are dry up. After pollination, the stalk is dotted with brown seed pods containing prodigious amounts of seed. Unlike most seeds, tiny orchid seeds don’t have enough nutrition on board to get going on their own. They must join with a mycorrhizal network (a web of fungal threads in the soil) to survive. Within hours of this crucial linkage, carbon will flow in both directions, benefiting the “infected” orchid and the fungus. Fungal partners also supply nitrogen and phosphorus to the orchid. This mycorrhizal association, though not well understood, is absolutely essential to all orchids.

Once a seed germinates and begins growing underground, the slow process of flowering is underway. A root will form in the soil at some point, but it can be years before a leaf emerges and photosynthesis takes place. It can also be years before the plant is robust enough to produce a flower stalk. Once the plant blooms and releases its seeds, little is left to see above ground. But a tuber is there, hiding in the soil, along with many fungal networks. When the time is right, (patience!) another Rein orchid will appear.

There is a dearth of information about these orchids. It’s not clear exactly what insects pollinate them. One source says that P. elegans is pollinated by a small brown moth not much bigger than your thumb. Its Latin name is Plusia nichollae and there is no common name – more obscurity! The little pollinator is a partly diurnal moth that lives mainly west of the Cascades, from coastal British Columbia to the Bay area in California, a narrow range not unlike that of the orchid. Sienna brown wings marked with white and gold would make the moth hard to spot among the golden grasses that often surround P. elegans. I’ll be looking for it.

A source says Flat-spurred rein orchids may be pollinated by “moths such as Thallophaga taylorata.” This moth doesn’t have a common name either. The obscurity of these lovely little plants is part of the appeal. They aren’t common, they grow in out-of-the-way places, they’re not well-studied by scientists, they aren’t known at all by the general public…and there you have a recipe for wonder. They will keep my attention for a while, I expect.

As I write this post, the flowers are fading and the plants are moving on to seed setting and dispersal. Six months from now I’ll be looking for Rein orchid leaves, nestled in moist moss. Until next year…



17. By April, more plants are emerging. Flowering for the Rein orchids is still three months away.

18. A Coast Piperia blooms among wildflowers, moss, and last year’s sloughed off Madrone bark and leaves.

19. Wildflower seeds blew onto this Flat-spurred Rein orchid near Mt. Erie.

20. The flowers fade in late July as the ovaries swell and harden into seed pods.

21. An elegant Coast Piperia specimen in full flower.

22. A wildflower bonanza right next to a trail high up on Sugarloaf, part of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. Nodding onions (Allium cernuum) surround this Coast Piperia Rein orchid.



  1. Orchids are fascinating flowers as you say. I actually used to raise them several years ago. Did you know that vanilla was an orchid? These small ones you show are really fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Howard. I knew about vanilla…and when we were in Leiden, Netherlands last year, we visited Leiden University, a very old and prestigious school. They have a great botanic garden and many conservatory houses filled with different orchids – it’s one of their major study areas. Few were blooming when we were there but it was still cool just to see so many specimens. Raising them is quite an art!


  2. In Texas we have rain lilies, while you have Rein orchids. It’s clear that nothing has reined in your enthusiasm for them.
    The leaning of the orchids in #3 is echoed by the diagonal plants faintly visible in the background.
    The unexpected pink in the last picture is a welcome bonus.
    #19 exemplifies nature’s prodigality: so often seeds are wasted by landing on the wrong kind of plant, doing neither one any good. In “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Gray expressed a similar idea: “Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen, / And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” He went on to apply the concept to people, too, mentioning “Some mute inglorious Milton.” And back to your subject, how about that orchid wearing a madrone leaf?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leave it to you to reign supreme when it comes to wordplay. Thanks for that! Ten years ago in central Florida, I photographed beautiful white lilies in a roadside ditch – I’m not sure if they were rain lilies.
      I love that you made the connection between the information about seeds and the seeds blown onto that orchid. I had the same thought – those ones won’t germinate. But maybe by now, they’ve reached the ground.
      Maybe the orchid with the Madrone leaf saved that particular leaf from an obscure death. πŸ˜‰ Have a good weekend, Steve!


  3. Wow these are amazing photos Lynn and Rein orchids wait patiently…I live your mindful approach…and your narrative always educative…thanks for sharing your teachings πŸ€“β˜ΊοΈ looking forward to see what you share next πŸ’š hugs Hedy πŸ€“πŸ€—

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This has the elements of a Master’s thesis, Lynn. I always look forward to your detailed, informative, and well-researched posts, and this one is exceptional. BTW, the German word “rein” means “pure.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s so funny that you said that about a Master’s thesis because as I was rewriting for the hundredth time my SO told me to stop worrying, it’s not a dissertation! πŸ™‚ I just kept finding more interesting facts and it’s important to me to try to present them in a clear, understandable way. It can be a challenge, too! And many thanks for mentioning that “rein” in German means “pure.” I’ve been wondering why they’re called rein orchids and that must be it. But look what I just found from a review of a book about these orchids from the U. of Iowa: ‘The luminously green rein orchids, so-called because of the resemblance of some of the flowers to the reins used on horses…” I prefer your idea. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a beautiful one called the Lesser Butterfly orchid that grows in England – and that or its cousin, the Greater Butterfly orchid, grows in the Netherlands, too! Maybe you can search one out…and thank you, Paula.


  5. Your prodigious ability to focus just right is put to good use in #1, where the companions of the main focus create a pleasing echo. I love the simplicity of many of these photographs, beginning with #2. And I love the complexity of #s 9, 10, and 12. In #3, I like how the out-of-focus plant stems help create a radiating pattern. The desaturation in #6 makes for a very pleasing color palette. I remember how you like leaves caught by other plants; what fun that you found one for #11! You’re so daringβ€”and successfulβ€”with your out-of-focus #13. Most people, I think, would not photograph a flower β€œcontaminated” by something extraneous, as it is in #19. You, however, rightly see the wildflower seeds not as contaminations but as adornment. . . . What you say about mycorrhizal association is fascinating! And your poem is another wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda, thank you for paying close attention to this rather long post! Yes, the mycorrhizal business is fascinating. Simplicity and complexity…it’s hard to make these flowers stand out against their surroundings but #12 is quite typical and I wanted to show the reality. (I think you get that!) And yes, it was really, really fun to see that Marone leaf caught just perfectly on that spike. The completely out-of-focus look can be appealing in terms of color but there often isn’t enough form shape to keep one interested in the picture. That one photo (13) seemed to work, in spite of having no focal point. I thought it helped express the way I feel about these little guys. I found more of them yesterday, too! They’re on a small bald (a rocky clearing without much soil) in the woods, on a trail I never walked until yesterday. Thanks again…have a good weekend!


    • Hopefully, the narrative wasn’t too long, but I couldn’t stop.;-) They are fading now but I was happy to find yet another small colony of them yesterday when I took a walk on a trail I had never walked before. They’re obviously not as common as daisies but they are managing. Thank you, Louis.


  6. I waited until I had some quiet time to give this the attention it deserves. I was well rewarded. Rarely in a blog post to do I get equal measures of mental, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual nourishment. I am well nourished. The photography: where I forced to choose just one it would be number 6. The color palette and delicate balance of focus makes this a lasting, wall-worthy image. If I get to choose more I would go for 13 and 14. With 13 your somewhat daring out-of-focus approach works because there is still just enough β€œthere” there for the eye to linger upon. Similar thoughts on number 14 although one of the plants is definitely in focus. But the whole thing is so beautifully soft. I look forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really appreciate your giving extra time to this post, Michael. I do try to cover a lot of bases, but that’s the idea, as you said – to nourish the reader/viewer in more than one way. “If I get to choose more” – So funny! Regarding the out-of-focus image, I agree that having some form there, however fuzzy, helps. That’s not necessarily the case with Color Field painting, but this isn’t that. πŸ˜‰ Here’s to softness – the world (our country especially) could use a little more these days!


  7. Very nice post Lynn, in words, including your poem, and in photography! Wow, you did a lot of research. I understand your fascination (I think you go crazy about flowers like me about insects πŸ˜‰ and I can’t imagine that people find these little wonders disappointing! On the contrary: they are so special. All about them is beautiful and exciting. You must have been so happy to find them. The one with the leaf is wonderful. As if the flower is cuddling into it or the leaf embraces the vulnerable flower πŸ™‚ 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14 and 22 are my favorites here. I love the desaturated ones together with #21. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it shows the elegance and the details so well. 21 is very artlike. I also love #9, how they grow out of the forest soil, touching somehow. Such tender flowers and at the same time they seem to be so strong. 14 really looks “ancient” and I like this vintage look. I looked for Platanthera and we have some kinds in Europe too. Unfortunately many are endangered. Are they in the US? – I looked for the moth – wow, what a beautiful one with the white spots on it! I was wondering about the word Rein too. I saw that someone translated it in the comments. I would prefer pure too πŸ˜‰ I would never have guessed it an orchid this tiny wonder. Really exceptional!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, a lot of research. Of course, all the hours spent outdoors were the best part and that, along with the appreciation of people like you, makes it worthwhile. Two days ago I followed a short trail that was new to me and found more Rein orchids in a clearing in the woods! It was another dry, open place with thin soil and Madrone trees. So interesting. The only insects I see on them are – well, none. I see spiders once in a while, that’s all. I like your impressions of the orchid stalk with the leaf hanging on it. Although I emphasized the delicate look of these flowers, you’re right, they must be pretty strong. But I do see broken stalks – was it an animal passing by? I will never know. Platanthera orchids are all over the world, almost, and some are endangered here, too, but not these ones. The species names change and the plants themselves are evolving, too. COmplicated. I read something that would interest you – scientists are realizing that if they want to protect endangered Platanthera orchids they have to protect the fungus – the mycorrhizal networks – too. They have to really think about that. It makes sense. Platanthera praeclara is endangered – it’s gorgeous, from the photos. But it was a prairie plant and as you probably know, the prairies are all farms now.

      For favorites, it seems you have chosen the most artistic images. πŸ™‚ We both like the idea that “Rein orchid” comes from pure, not a horse’s reins. But whatever! Thanks so much for taking the time to wade through this is in a second language! Enjoy your weekend, Almuth. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • The ecosystem is so complex. We try to protect or support one thing and then find out there are so many things. But I am glad to hear that they have the fungi in focus! One has to start somewhere, right? I am happy to hear that you have some kinds that are not endangered. Yes, more farms than ever, everywhere, or at least fields.


  8. Your photographs are so very beautiful. I had no idea there were orchids in this part of the world so must look out for them now as the Rein orchids also grow in BC. Your post reminded me of a hike Don and I did in Laos many years ago into a national park, and it seemed every ten minutes or so our guide would stop to show us yet another variety of orchid growing wild in the bush. And also of Raymond Burr’s orchid garden in Fiji which was quite amazing – over 200 varieties of Asian and hybrid orchids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you might still find them, especially if you’re on one of the islands or in a drier place, or a bald or bluff where Madrone trees (oops – Arbutus!) grow. The wooded places where I’ve seen them are always on the dry side and fairly free of undergrowth. (And BTW, you can pop any species – you don’t need a Latin name – into the inaturalist search box and see exactly where it’s been found in your area, down to the exact coordinates). I didn’t know anything about Raymond Burr’s garden – that sounds like a place to linger. And now you’ve made me think of W.S. Merwin’s palm garden in Hawaii….pleasant places! Thanks, Alison.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yet another delight full post! Your description helped explain Eric’s enthusiasm for finding orchids up in the hills here. Who knew they were so enchanting. If I had to pick a favorite this time, I think the misty moody #13 would be it. I guess I’m in that sort of mood. Then again, you described precisely why I struggle with the naming of names so much: “a jumble of look-alike species and a veritable morass of names.” I simply don’t know how you do it, but I’m very much impressed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • πŸ™‚ Thanks Gunta! It does take a bit of tenacity but growing up with a research scientist father made me comfortable with that way of looking at the world, and investigating it. After a while, you get to know what to look for. The inaturalist site is a really good one for learning what grows in your area – check it out sometime. You can just zoom in on the map to where you live and see what people have found. Have a good weekend!


      • Ahhh… so you had inspiration and a mentor! That explains a lot. I seem to be catching signs of the short term memory slipping and it gets frustrating to try to remember all the varied details, not to mention the fact that they keep changing. Life is just easier if I give up trying TOO hard and go with the flow. But I love that you can do all that! And share it with us.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t remember all that much – I never have actually – I have always tended to forget people’s names, specific facts, etc. My memory works more on impressions. Somehow I was able to remember enough to get by pretty well in school but most of it went in one ear and out the other, as they say. I rely on the computer and the books, over and over again. Ask me about the facts in this post next week and I won’t remember them, but I have an overall feeling for the subject and if I need a fact, I know how to get it. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you’re taking it easy and not torturing yourself! πŸ˜‰ Thanks once more!


    • These dates are constantly changing, and that reminds me, somewhere I read that one of these orchids is in a constant state of evolutionary flux. The 100 million years could change tomorrow – but orchids have been around a while, even longer than you and me!! πŸ˜‰ Thank you, Adrian, I’m glad you like the post.


    • Thank you very much, Muhammad. You are someone who knows botany and photography, too, so I really appreciate your good words. I like to present a well-rounded portrait that includes some science but also some personal impressions to convey the feelings that a particular plant engenders in me. Our orchids aren’t as showy as yours but they are equally precious, right? πŸ™‚ Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes indeed, There are so many wild orchids in our globe that have amazing shapes and colors, and I can imagine how you spent your time encountering and enjoying its beauties since the flowers looked so tiny. That is the only way we can do but you are more talented pour this story in beautiful and impressive writing. Enjoy your weekend also, my dear friend.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Even though it is the end of their season, I found more after posting this and even another species! I’m already looking forward to looking for each group of them again next year. Your kind words are appreciated….you have a good weekend, too. Take care and stay healthy.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I admire your patience and dedication that is so obvious in your “Just One” series, Lynn. If it was for a paper in school I might suggest that you put a lot of work into it, but given that you’re doing this simply for the love of it, and maybe even the intellectual challenge of finding and presenting the information, I can see the affinity for your subject overwhelms anything that might be considered work.

    it’s a beautiful post…and I find that I really enjoy images 6, 7, and 14…the fine detail of the first two and then the near obscured and fading presentation of the last.

    So very nice, Lynn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it did seem like work at times. πŸ™‚ And I’m doing it for the love of it so I think both can be true. These little plants did capture my attention and it’s been an absorbing challenge, trying to figure out what they are. Then there’s the poetic side, which is simply indescribable but I know you get it – that feeling of magic when I’m in their presence. Thank you, Scott, and have a good week.


  11. Fascinating, Lynn. Your images are terrific. At first glance, they certainly don’t look like the orchids most would imagine. So pretty. The blooms in your close-ups, however, do show their orchid shape. Beautiful images and I love your poetry. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Am I the only one that finds it humorous that your “Just One” posts usually have 1-2 dozen images? πŸ˜‰

    Another lovely, and informative series.

    I find it unfortunate that your two suspected pollinators don’t have “common names” as I have found that most Lepidoptera’s (? Lepidopteran’s?) “common names” are usually quite uncommon! Or quirky as least. They are one of my favorite lists of things ever. We just recently found a Hackberry Emperor in our yard….such wonderful, imaginative names. Great Spangled Fritillary Batman!

    I’m with you on the “underdog” thing. I love looking over what others overlook.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, don’t give me a hard time, the “Just One” refers to one species, not one photograph. You know I”m incapable of posting one photograph and besides, lots of images are needed to give a well-rounded portrait of one particular species. Of course, this time there are two! πŸ˜‰ What an interesting observation about names…I think the problem with moths is that there are too many and they’re out at night, so they aren’t studied the way butterflies and insects are. I remember the name Hackberry Emperor, and I used to see Great-spangled Fritillaries in gardens sometimes – so pretty. πŸ™‚ I have a N. American butterfly field guide and for you, I found these: Fatal Metalmark, Bog Elfin, Gold-hunter’s Hairstreak, Cloudless Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Swarthy Skipper!, and Nabokov’s Satyr (makes sense).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! I think I was actually giving myself a hard time. You’d be surprised at just how long it took me to figure out what the “Just One” was referring to. I can be shockingly dense sometimes!

        Wow! a Fatal Metalmark?! We just have boring old Swamp Metalmarks and Northern Metalmarks ’round these parts. I wonder what or who they’re Fatal to?

        Sounds like the Bog Elfin and Nabakov’s Satyr belong in the same storybook.

        We have quite a few species of Hairstreaks and Skippers in MIssouri too, though I think I’d love to see a Swarthy one.

        As for Sulphurs, we have both of those varieties here as well. I do believe I caught quite a few of them (can’t recall if they were With or Without Clouds…) making whoopy in the tall grass a year or two back…..have to see if I can dig those up…

        Here’s a couple of fun ones for you: Gorgone Checkerspot, the (somewhat oxymoronically named) Slate-Grey Azure & the Bronze Copper, the White M Hairstreak (can you guess what it’s distinguishing Marking is?), and the Sleepy Orange…. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Another excellent informative post with details of nature.
    Orchids are really amazing, as shown here. I remember that, a few years ago, I participated in a guided tour by a botanist and I was fascinated with the quantity and type of orchids found. And I especially loved the shape of the flowers, some very small and that I wouldn’t think were orchids. Others looked like “little men”, but I don’t remember the species name.
    It is truly an incredible world that your attentive look, knowledge and beautiful photos offers us once again. Thank you for sharing this and also the Inaturalist website, very interesting.
    Being Monday, I obviously wish you a good week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dulce, I just read that Europe’s rarest orchid is one of the Platantheras. It grows in one place, in the Azores. And there may be three different species of Platanthera orchids in the Azores. πŸ™‚ I’m sure there are other orchids in different parts of Portugal. Like you said, the variety of orchids is amazing, and of course, most of them are bigger and more conventionally attractive than these. But these really appealed to me, as you can see. I’m glad you came along and enjoyed the journey. πŸ˜‰ You have a good week too!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Different sources say different things and some species used to be identified as a different species (not Platanthera). Plus one source said some are still evolving (aren’t we all?). πŸ˜‰ Lots of them like bogs and are called Bog orchids. I bet you could find some – certainly if you use inaturalist, which you can use for all sorts of things you might be curious about. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and felt the poem worked with the images. Thank you!


  14. Sticky thread-worlds, I guess applies to your writing, too, capturing our attention. Very and unexpectedly interesting., and beautiful writing. I love a story about a quiet corner or underappreciated character, and feel real affection for that plant with its Madrone leaf cape, very jaunty, quite stylish. I especially like the shots with the vintage lens a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You made me smile with your use of sticky thread-worlds, thanks so much. It’s great that the post was unexpectedly interesting – I like that. These two little plants keep popping up in quiet corners – exactly that. It’s almost as if they’re drawing my attention to a place I would have passed by otherwise. They seem to imbue their surroundings with a magical quality, which is completely subjective. One way of thinking about it is that there is potential for a magical quality everywhere. I became more open to it when I investigated these flowers.
      I’m glad you like the caped orchid – that was a find, right? And the vintage lens – if you like what it does, maybe look into it. I don’t know what kind of camera you use but the lens is often sold on ebay for a reasonable price and can be adapted for use with many different cameras. I’m not a techie type but I managed to get the right adapter and eventually figured out how to get good photos with it. It’s really, really pleasurable to use.
      Thank you Robert!


  15. This is a wonderful post, Lynn. It so embodies the respect for language, factual information, and the photography that we have discussed before. We should add respect for the subject too. πŸ˜‰ I particularly like #9 as it gives an impression of the size and setting and really shows off the beauty of these orchids. The bokeh in #3 and #15 is lovely. Nice to see a few images from that Takumar lens too.

    When I saw these images I was reminded of a similar orchid, the Nodding Ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes cernua), we used to find on our farm. We have not seen them in recent years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much for the appreciative words, Mic, it means a lot. I did work hard on this one, but I do love that plant, and the special feeling that seems to be afoot everywhere it grows. Naturally, I had to use the vintage lens a few times, since it’s perfect for poetic situations.
      you mentioned that #9 shows the context, setting, and size – I get annoyed when people photograph things closeup and never give you the context, so I usually try to include that, even though it’s easier to make nice compositions with closeups.
      I know Ladies–tresses in general – there was one I saw a few times in the northeast. I’m really sorry to hear that you don’t see them lately. I’ve heard orchids can disappear for years, then suddenly reappear. We can hope!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I was particularly interested in this post, since I’ve had similar experience with one of our native Texas orchids: the cranefly (Tipularia discolor). I’ve seen it only once, and sightings of it are quite uncommon; it’s a far east Texas species. I’ve revisited the location where I found it last year, but so far there’s no sign of it. Various sources say that it can appear en masse one year, and then not be seen for a decade. Our various ladies’ tresses species show the same behavior: here today, gone tomorrow. They’re so unpredictable!

    Like this one’s association with Madrones, the cranefly orchid’s often found around beech trees, but it prefers deep shade, and my lack of skill meant relatively poor photos last year. That’s one reason I’m looking for it this year: the chance for better photos. Right now, we have another Platanthera blooming: the Chapman’s fringed orchid. Earlier this year, white-flower-loving me was thrilled to find P. nivea in bloom. It may be my favorite of them all.

    I’m in my summer slump right now. Unlike so many who’ve found themselves with extra time during the pandemic, I’m still working full time, and the combination of that and Texas heat often leaves me as mentally exhausted as physically. It’s an odd phenomenon, for sure. Sometimes I come to your posts and find them so intensely rich, I simply can’t give them the energy they deserve. I start to respond, and then my thoughts simply trail off. But I couldn’t let this one pass. It’s beautifully written, and the photos are glorious. Not only that, it’s been a good reminder to begin looking again for my own elusive orchid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I googled the cranefly orchid – it has a very similar look and it must be hard to see. The orchids in this post aren’t common but they’re not quite uncommon, either, and they’re so easy to overlook. I found more of them yesterday. I also learned from inaturalist that some of the flowers I’m seeing are probably a third species! I too have read that these little orchids can be abundant one year, then disappear and pop back up years later. I think it’s all about that fungal network, which is so invisible to us. There may be a mushroom associated with Beech trees whose mycorrhizal network supports the Cranefly orchids.
      I just found Ladies’ tresses here on the island for the first time the other day – growing along with Platanthera orchids, under Madrone trees and near Rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyera). So interesting. I suspect this was a banner year for all of them – we had a good bit of rain earlier this year. P. nivea looks like a real beauty, no wonder it’s a favorite.
      I can’t imagine working outside in Texas heat – let’s hope the hurricanes hold off or go somewhere else and the humidity lowers.
      Do you know Jim Fowler’s blog?
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post – a labor of love. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What Shoreacres said in that last paragraph— without the Texas heat, etc. Seems there’s just something in the air, globally no less. Perhaps it’s a time for more introspection. Which, of course, can lead to mental exhaustion. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Again and again I am amazed, dear Lynn, with how much effort you make yourself expert and how permanently you stick to a topic, once you have been gripped by the passion for it. Thirst for understanding and love drive you to deep knowledge and poetic art in words and pictures. You let it happen and it happens.
    How fine and fitting you desaturated the colors in No.6 and 7! How enchanting you have simulated the moon night in No. 8! No.14 in the beautiful Silver Efex antique look I also like very much.
    And from the depths of botanical history and science, you take a final lap through the year, which you close with the prospect of a new life.
    Here I see an example of how wonderfully picture and text can come together to form a complete work of art when the creator is deeply inspired. Great, Lynn!

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

    Liked by 2 people

    • These orchids have enchanted me – it became an obsession. I actually think there is one other species of Rein orchid growing here on the island, too! I enjoy the challenge of sorting out the identification and the obscurity of these plants. All my efforts pay off when I read comments like yours. I’m glad you liked the different processing styles.
      This post got a bit text-heavy because I wanted to include both factual information and my poetic reaction to the plants. If you feel the images and text work together, then maybe it worked! I’m glad. If only I could share them with you in person!
      Thank you.


      • These orchids really are enchanting, Lynn, and also enchanting is the thought of sharing them in person, and the madrone trees, and all the water views and books and talking and and … I’d have to stay a year at least πŸ™‚.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. What a brilliant work of citizen science, Lynn! Your dedication to following your bliss is inspiring. This is a fine treatise, or dissertation as your SO declares, and the work you’ve put into this is obvious and a labor of love. Although when one loves something is it really labor?
    I am not surprised to see these as orchids. We have a couple with similar physical and growth characteristics…the various species of Lady’s Tresses and Rattlesnake Plantains. I’ve enjoyed finding them and have posted one or two, but you have now inspired me to take that interest a little more seriously.
    As for the images, several struck me. I just reviewed them and found a few more striking than some others. I don’t think I will state any as favorites as each has qualities to be appreciated for both beauty and technical accomplishment. Actually, I lied. Number six wowed me a bit, but only a little bit, more than the others. Actually I lied about that too…a lot more!!! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, what a happy opening line you wrote. πŸ™‚ And I’ll take the second line, too. Yes, it was a lot of work and sometimes It did feel like labor, but I’m still fascinated by these little flowers so I guess I haven’t killed it. In fact, I found a few more just yesterday, in yet another location close to home. They are REALLY at the end of their season now. I think there are actually three species on the island, the third one (not mentioned above) being the one I recently became aware of, and the last to bloom. I think.
      And Ladies Tresses! I found those, too – just in one place but it seems they’re not common here at all. My theory is that the Platantheras, at least those that grow here, prefer our drier conditions. The Ladies tresses like it damper, I think. And here, Rattlesnake plantains are tolerant of a wider range of conditions than the Rein orchids OR the Ladies Tresses. I end to discount them as “common” but in fact, their presence is a hint that Rein orchids may be nearby.
      I’m thrilled that this inspired you to go deeper with the little, obscure orchids. It’s interesting that you confess to liking #6, which is, as you can tell, desaturated. Poetic license! πŸ™‚
      Thanks so very much for your comment, Steve. I enjoyed it.


      • I have yet to see any ladies’ tresses so the project may have to wait a while. πŸ™‚ I’ve a few older images but they are pretty much all alike. Glad that you enjoyed the comment. We all get a lot of that from your posts. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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