Friday, February 10, 2012

Green in Winter: Puttyroot Orchid

The woodland native Aplectrum hyemale takes an unusual approach to getting sunlight for photosynthesis. It produces a single leaf in autumn, and this leaf persists all winter while abundant sunlight reaches the forest floor (hyemale = of winter).
The leaf withers away in spring as the tree canopy closes in, and in June the plant can be found with a leafless flowering scape. Flowers and scapes are tan, brownish, and/or purplish, and there is a bright lemon yellow form (f. pallidum) that is occasional in northern Indiana, especially in LaPorte County. In the photo above, it appears that some fungus took a lichen to the fallen tree limb.

6 comments:

Jenny said...

What a fascinating plant! I'm in Boston and we're definitely not seeing any traces of orchids quite yet. Thanks for sharing!

Keith said...

Thanks for commenting Jenny. The USDA PLANTS database shows a lot of county records in the northeast U.S. so Puttyroot probably could be found near Boston if there are rich forests in the area.

Jenny said...

That is great to know! I had checked a different website that is apparently a bit less exhaustive than the USDA's. I will keep my eye out!

Nick said...

They don't call it puttyroot for nothing. The newspaper that's often used to press the plant when it's collected tends to stay stuck to the sticky root and you can still read it years afterward.

http://possiblepenstemon.blogspot.com/2012/02/feb-17-2012.html

Jenny said...

That image is excellent!

Keith said...

Thanks Jenny!