Documents: Special Interest: Orchids:

A Jaunt Into A Fringed Gentian Meadow
by Brian Carson
October 27, 2002

For several years, enjoying the peace, freedom and fresh air, I have rambled and botanized through Pontiac County, PQ. Lily, my six-year-old hiking companion, Eastern Canada's hottest hotdog last year, has led me on many thrilling adventures. As she scours the area for fauna, I get to scan the flora. On the beautiful Labor Day Weekend, she out did herself.

We left the cottage midmorning and scurried past the bear infested sugar bush. Ma and two cubs were sunning themselves near the forest edge after a feast in a neighboring corn field. They gamboled into the woods when they spotted us. We postponed venturing into the woods to check on the Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leafed Helleborine orchid). The sweet-toothed bears had scared us out of there previously as we checked these local orchids. These green jewels are safer to view back at the cottage growing in the compost pile and over the septic tank. Yes, they do grow greener over the septic tank.

Instead we turned down a gravel road. We passed a bedraggled clump of Cypripedium parviflorum v. pubescens (Yellow Lady's Slippers) almost crying out to be rescued. Looking glorious in June, the clump has somehow managed to survive there in the barren road gravel without being ripped out by a passing grader or snowplough. The heat and drought this summer left it looking quite shabby.

We took a shortcut through a pine needle carpeted red pine forest where countless Cypripedium acaule (Pink Lady's Slippers) are a late spring delight. With the deep snow cover last winter and cold spring and consequent lack of pollinators, pollination which is usually poor at best was ghastly. In the whole population, I found only two seed capsules. I helped with the dispersal of one and left the other to the elements. Back in the spring we had found one to die for gorgeous plant with twin flowers and had been hoping it would set seed. That was not to be. Fresh tracks indicated a passing Bambi with a connoisseur's taste for fine plants had nipped it off at the base.

Heading north along the deer path we were stopped dead in our tracks by a fifty foot diameter patch of gorgeous Goodyera tesselata. (Lattice -leaf orchids). Their three to five inch rosettes with chubby blue green leaves checkered with white veins and cross veins were stunning against the pine needle backdrop. Probably still covered in a winter blanket of pine needles I had missed spotting them in the spring. It was fortunate that Bambi had filled up on the ladyslippers, even that twin-flowered gem.

Continuing along the deer path, we came to a familiar country road past a wildflower meadow where we found several clumps of cream colored Rudbeckia hirta var ? a few years ago......but that is another story.

A couple of miles down the road we turned into a large semi-abandoned gravel pit. We had hiked through here several times but never in early September. In the heat of summer with the persistent deer flies hovering directly overhead and turkey vultures a little higher, this area had not been very inviting. But today, this first day of September, under the warm, blue sky there were no flies and no vultures. We left the vultures back on the trail enjoying a large indescribable feast . . . perhaps Bambi choking on the ladyslippers.

At the bottom of the pit, about fifty feet below the tree line, so to speak, a single flowered, Gentianopsis crinita (Fringed Gentian) nestled up against a Spiranthes cernua (Nodding Ladies'- tresses orchid) signaled an amazing discovery. As I knelt to admire this beautiful combo, from out of the blue came a moist congratulatory kiss from my hiking buddy . . . a 'fringe' benefit of kneeling near a loving Dachsie. Life is just too good some days.

Recovering from the passion of the moment and looking around, I was amazed to see Fringed Gentians everywhere blinking their beautiful eyelashes at the passing clouds. Thousands of these beautiful native wild flowers, rare and endangered in many areas were flourishing here in unusual but obviously suitable ecosystems. In the open sun baked gravel they sported single blooms on short sturdy stems. In the wetter areas, more recently disturbed, noble candelabra shone resplendently with several dozen blooms. Bumble bees revelled in their deep corolla tubes taking a couple of sips before moving along. Grasshoppers were nibbling through some satin silver early ripening seed capsules. The treasure they pillaged was the gentians' copious dainty seed with its rich oily endosperm. One intent hopper, nudged by Lily's nose could not be distracted from its intemperate indulgence. The small white spiralling tapers of the Ladies'- tresses dotted amongst the hoards of frilly sapphire trumpets enhanced the serene scene. ...........a wonderful "Kodak moment" .........and of course the camera was back in the city.

Seed will be collected later and will be available at the Ottawa Valley Rock Garden Society's great seed exchange

OVRGS Budding Poet

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row