Crane fly orchids on the farm

For 2013, I hope to post more photos and stories about the plants and critters that inhabit our little 10 acre spot of perfectness, including both the cultivated and natural areas.  In addition to the upland fields, our farm contains a seepage spring, some upland and wetland shrubland areas, hedgerows, creeks, a farm pond, upland hardwood forest, and riparian forest, as well as aquatic habitat in the Flat River.  That means lots of biodiversity.

Today we took our annual New Year’s hike.  In the dead of winter in hardwood forests all throughout the Piedmont, the crane fly orchid is one of the few herbaceous plants to continue to photosythesize (see photo below).  In fact, Tipularia discolor puts on leaves in the fall which whither away in early spring to take advantage of the high levels of light under the winter hardwood canopy.  Then in the summer it sends up a small shoot with small but very intricate brown flowers that blend in with the background but are (apparently) irresistible to flies.  We took the photo below in the upland hardwood forest that slopes down towards the Flat River on our property.

Next time you go on a cold winter’s day hike, look for this unusual plant with the crinkly leaf.  And turn the leaf over for the biggest surprise of all – a deep purple underside.

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