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Incoming BYTES
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Captivating Unknowns: Orchids?

the "Whitewood Orchid"

 Orchids of Northwestern Ontario

 by  r.a. kukkee

Here at Incoming Bytes sometimes it seems even the very concept of exotic flowers must belong elsewhere. We couldn't be more wrong-- Mother Nature is amazing, isn't she?

Admittedly, tender blossoms and the plants they are borne upon do not usually survive 'our kind' of extreme weather. In the flower gardens we tend to stick with the tried and true,  the indestructible black-eyed Susans,  Sweet Williams, Coneflowers, marigolds, and wild daisies.
 By contrast, delicate tea roses and orchids are perceived to be humid warm-climate plants,  heated greenhouse specialties that are "out of the question" or 'impossible' .  
  It really would not be surprising if flowers complained of off-season temperatures of -40F -- not uncommon in Northwestern Ontario for a couple of weeks or more in the long winter.

Does location make it impossible to have exotics?  No. Even in the wilds, the common " Pink Lady Slipper", a beautiful, delicate orchid, survives in Northwestern Ontario. 

We fearlessly like to believe  think nothing is impossible if you look in the right places at the right time.  It becomes more complicated when we realize that some orchids only blossom  every few years--and under specific conditions. Is that why we don't easily spot them?

I have found three specific flowers that offer unique  characteristics that are reminiscent of orchids.

Check this out!  I found this flower 3 years ago, and at that time I had never seen it in this locality.
  I  tentatively called it  the Whitewood Orchid- simply because there is no better name for this beautiful, and exotic, perhaps even rare flower.

Whitewood Orchid

The  small, creamy-white, less than half-inch blossoms  spring from individual bracts hosted by a single, tall flower stalk that bolts and grows from three or four leaves on the forest floor in a semi-shaded environs. The  habit and  presentation of this flower is similar to that of the common Phalaenopsis orchid.   The main flower spike varies from 7-10" tall with individual plants depending on location. Note the  single, tall flower spike and elongated leaves.  It is a beauty, is it not?

Whitewood Orchid

I made a new discovery this year--another orchid-like flower that has never been seen in previous years .  We have lived here for 33 years and have never seen this species before.  I wonder if the warmer summers have something to do with it?   Check this beauty out!

I have tentatively called this one the Whitewood Pink-fringed Orchid.   You can see why . The flower is similar to the Whitewood orchid, but pink-fringed--and it has completely different leaves.

Pink-Fringed Whitewood Orchid

And yes, it is small. Very small. The blooms are only  about half as  big as the "Whitewood Orchid" and the evidence is fleeting.   Check this out!  Look what we caught in the act, eating the evidence.  
 Now we know who eats this beautiful flower.  It must taste good.  The tiny beetle dining at the top  of the spike  in the photo below is about 1/16" long.Bon appetite!  Would you like fries with that?

 Pink-Fringed Whitewood Orchid  with beetle

Unfortunately, this one and only blooming specimen was trampled and broken by bunnies or Yogi bear between the time I first discovered it and got back to photograph it an hour later.
 I was very fortunate to be able to find the remains of the flower spike in the detritus---enough  to photograph, with a couple of blossoms.

   The leaves of this variety  are distinctively rounded.  There are also a couple missing!
 There were three or four leaves the same size as the largest one in this picture when this plant was still intact.  See?  There are also a couple of immature plant specimens close by.
Hopefully they will blossom next year.

Leaves of the Whitewood Pink-Fringed Orchid  ( Note the mature  big leaf and immature specimens)

As small as that unusual flower is,  in 2010  I discovered one even smaller.

 I called it the "Red-stemmed Spotted Orchid" because --you got it,  it is spotted.  The blooms are between 1/8" and 3/16"  across.  Very tiny, but exotic, aren't they?  It was very difficult to get this macro photo.

Whitewood  Red-Stemmed Spotted Orchid
Like the  rare Ghost orchid, the almost- transparent  Indian Pipe  --also found in this locality,  the Red-stemmed Spotted Orchid presents itself  only on a tall flower spike, without any visible leaves.
 2010 was  the first time we had ever seen this tiny, beautiful and unusual spotted flower as well.

The three stalks were carefully guarded in this location until they faded away naturally, hopefully to feed and preserve the plants.
Three  individual specimens of Red-stemmed spotted Orchids-- carefully guarded

Interestingly, about 20 years ago, an Indian Pipe, the Ghost orchid  was found about 40 feet from this location, but has not bloomed since that time.  Fascinated by exotic flowers,  we've been watching for it to return, but to no avail.  Yet, that is.
*unfortunately, my difficult, miserable and uncooperative internet system has not allowed me to find and add photos of the Pink lady-slipper  or the "Indian Pipe" at time of posting.

Well, that just about does it for orchid-like flowers in this neck of the woods.    I hope you liked them!  We're always on the lookout  for new ones! 
Have you discovered any indigenous wild orchids where you live?

Is that incoming I hear?

Photos by r.a.kukkee (c) 2012


  1. Neat! "Would you like fries with that?" - Ha ha ha!

    These look familiar - I think there's something similar in my neck of the woods, admittedly not so far from yours.

    This weekend I'll grub around a little and report back. Fantastic photos BTW!


    1. Hi, Wendy! That cute little beetle was making short work of that spike, I watched him for a bit. It's amazing how much they eat!
      YES, you may well have some of these around--being only 25 miles away or so! DO take some pictures and send them if you find some, ok? Thanks, great to see you! ":) ~R

  2. Great Finds, and I just love Orchids both wild and cultivated.. these finds you have taken photos of here Raymond are beauties.. Thank you for sharing.. Loved my walk in the woods..Nature is always giving us surprises and we have just noticed a small cherry tree growing in our front garden obviously courtesy of the birds... Nature is a Joy to be in.. ~Sue

    1. Hi Sue, welcome back! It is interesting how small these are--and I wonder if they would become bigger in a warmer climate?
      Even micro-sized, they are so beautiful --and delicate. It is especially interesting that we haven't seen these three up until a couple of years ago when I discovered the Whitewood orchid. Perhaps the climate IS really changing. Nature is wonderful isn't she? Thanks for commenting! ~R

    2. I have no doubts that our climate is changing Raymond and that the Earth with Mother nature is working hard behind those changes .. Creating many things our eyes do not always see..
      So Well spotted these finds and Im always with head bent when out walking, Ive not found anything so wonderful upon my own travels, Beauty is all around even in a blade of grass... Just think how barren the place would be without our green meadowlands and fields... Im just happy you have shared your find. Thank you!

  3. Wow RK! What beauties...And so small and delicate. Love orchids! I have several and one blooms 5-6 months! Amazing. Haven't seen any here yet then again I just moved in and haven't walked the property yet. I'm still healing torn ligaments in one knee. I'll get out there next year. Besides, the bear has been in the neighborhood quite a bit recently and I really don't wish to come face to face with it...I'm having to watch the fruit trees carefully so it doesn't come strip them bare. I lost my blueberries and blackberries to the crows :( Hope they enjoyed them. Enjoy your beauties.... Blessings...VK

    1. Hi Vk,,,,I sure do wonder how long it will be between blooms on these. We've been here 33 years and haven't seen any of them before, (the first Whitewood Orchid I found 3 years ago is nowhere to be seen this year--but we have found other specimens of the same thing in bloom this year-the ones in the pictures)
      The tiniest red spotted orchid is nowhere to be seen this year,(third year now) and the Whitewood pink-fringed specimen found was the first time one has ever seen around here.
      They are easily overlooked because of their size, that's always a possibility too.
      So you have a bear around, be careful! Maybe the wild turkeys are eating your blueberries too! Cedar waxwings ate all of our honeyberries last year. "We share with our little neighbours apparently". ":)) The secret is to grow MORE.....haha Thanks for dropping in, Vk! ~R

  4. Me again! I keep coming back to the photos - they're so good. Now I'm wondering, could these be something in the wintergreen family? Especially that first one. The really neat thing is that there is every possibility of discovering a plant that has never been catalogued before. Maybe the beetle is new too!

    We had indian pipe at our camp one season at our camp when I was little. I've heard that it feeds on rotting wood (like an old root) beneath the soil. That explains why it doesn't return year after year. It's really special.

    OK - I should get back to "work." :)


    1. Hi Wendy, I'm guessing the plant would have the typical or similar odour if it was related to wintergreen. I HAVE found wintergreen previously and it is lovely stuff, I don't believe this is related at all.
      I'm kind of hoping all three of them ARE new, because they sure are unique!
      That Indian pipe only showed up the one year, that is a logical explanation, thanks! I have never seen once since. These flowers are so beautiful aren't they? The photos turned out great...more luck than skill...haha... Thanks for commenting! ~R

  5. These orchids are beautiful! Thanks for showing me all of the varieties, complete with beautiful photos. I hope Mr Beetle that was in one of the photos is enjoying his home on the flower :)

    1. Hi Christyb, you're welcome! I think Mr. Beetle was enjoying his breakfast, lunch and dinner on that orchid stalk. "Christyb smiles as she watches Mr. Beetle dine in style". ":) Thanks for commenting, Christy! ~R

  6. How lovely!!!! Could you be a famous discoverer soon? I'm glad you didn't remove the bug from his feast :) Angie

    1. Hi Angie, I'm a firm believer in never interrupting anyone's dinner..":) We don't know if these have ever been catalogued or not. I kind of hope not, that would be exciting wouldn't it?
      Thanks for dropping in! ~R

  7. Wonderful photos, Raymand. You never know when you will discover something new and exciting and some flowers are so tiny. I have been to Death Valley during the big bloom they have every so often. I have caught the big bloom twice in the 20 or so years I have lived in Nevada. They happen rarely and when they do it is well worth the trip. There were so many types of flowers and some of them so tiny you almost needed a magnifying glass.

    I love all the green I see in your photos. Sometimes I miss green:)

    1. Hi Renoliz. thanks! ,,,Death Valley? I imagine there are many plants there that bloom so seldom they may not have ever been categorized or photographed. That would be a trip of a lifetime to see that!
      I'm glad you like the 'green'. It is a huge part of the enjoyment of Nature. I was in Tucson AZ once upon a time --and was amazed how little green there is.
      Some of the tiniest flowers are amazing and incredibly beautiful, aren't they? Who would have thought these would exist in Northwestern Ontario?I sure do enjoy finding them! Thanks for commenting! ":) ~R

  8. Those rounded leaves reminded me of wild ginger, but I don't suppose they are the same. Lovely flowers made all the more exotic because you have to get down on your belly to truly appreciate them. Great photos!

    1. hi Glory, thanks--and yes, they did remind me of wild ginger also, I thought of that possibility, but it's not ginger. They are rare, we haven't seen anything like them at all. Pretty though, aren't they? Thanks for commenting. ":) ~R

  9. That red one is so very interesting with no leaves. I love the spots.

    1. Cute, aren't they, Red? ....and it's a true orchid, SO tiny and perfect. It was very difficult to photograph them. Thanks for commenting! ":) ~R


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