Hidden away from the summer sun, the crane-fly orchid is blooming. Shaded by towering oaks and other hardwoods, this orchid produces several flowers on its delicate stem from mid-July through August. This plant’s striking purple underside makes it easy to identify if you know where to look.
The orchid only grows in deep shade and starts by producing just a single leaf. The underside is always a deep purple color, which makes it easy to identify even before it blooms. Once the plant is ready to bloom, it produces a twenty-inch stalk with small buds. Right now, the stalks are covered in clusters of pinkish and purplish blooms. Every night, the orchids are visited by owlet moths, which drink the flowers’ nectar and, in return, help pollinate the plant.
Ranger Robby says, “Look for these flowers in the shade along the Forest Trail, Cascades Trail, and the Wilburn Farm Trail at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve. They are extremely rare, but you can spot them if you look very carefully.” Come out and see these spectacular blooms before they are gone for another year. If you find them, make sure to share your photos on our Facebook page!