Friday, August 19, 2011

Where did all the summer go? Early fall wildflowers...

Suddenly, it seems, the summer is almost done...all the daylilies...except a very few reblooms...are past and I am collecting the seed pods from this year's hybridizing efforts.

  On a walk by our lake, I did find two beautiful late summer/early fall wildflowers.  The Cardinal flower was in a colony near the water on our house side of the lake...just down from my kitchen window.  The Yellow Fringed Orchid was found, for the second year, blooming at the end of the earthen dam, near the spillway.


Lobelia cardinalis L.

Cardinal flower

Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Synonyms: Lobelia cardinalis ssp. graminea, Lobelia splendens

USDA Symbol: LOCA2

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

This 1-6 ft. perennial has showy, red flowers in 8 in., terminal spikes. Each flower has three spreading lower petals and two upper petals, all united into a tube at the base. Erect leafy stems, often in clusters, with racemes of flowers resembling flaming red spires. The lower portion of the erect stem is lined with lance-shaped leaves.

Although relatively common, overpicking this handsome wildflower has resulted in its scarcity in some areas. Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar, for pollination. Its common name alludes to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. In southern Arizona, Sierra Madre Lobelia (L. laxiflora) is also found; its corolla is red with yellow lobes or all yellow.


Platanthera ciliaris (L.) Lindl
Orange plume, Orange-fringed orchid, Yellow fringed orchid

Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

USDA Symbol: PLCI2

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

Terminating a leafy stem is a large, many-flowered cluster of deep orange to bright yellow flowers with drooping, deeply fringed lip petals.

This is a very showy orchid of meadows and open woods. A more southern species, Orange Fringed Orchid (P. cristata), has a flower 3/8 (9 mm) wide and a spur 1/2 (1.3 cm) long, shorter than the fringed lip. Yellow Fringeless Orchid (P. integra), found in southern New Jersey and eastern North Carolina south to Florida and Texas and north to Tennessee, has orange-yellow flowers with a fringeless lip. Yellow Fringed Orchid and White Fringed Orchid frequently hybridize when growing together; similarly, Yellow Fringed crosses with Orange Fringed Orchid.