November 30, 2021
As November rolls into December with unseasonably mild weather, we’re looking back at the past summer and forward to what we might find when we search for the desiccated leaves and stems of last year’s flowers that we happened upon last December protruding above the snow (the flowers and leaves protruding, not us).
This past year we’ve been obsessed with finding as many as possible of Minnesota’s native orchids. On one trip we had an eight-orchid day, and on another trip when we visited Wisconsin with a knowledgeable friend we saw at least twelve different kinds of orchids in a single day. We’ve had to learn the scientific names of Platanthera orchids because we were tired of being baffled by whether we were looking at a tall green orchid, a tall bog orchid, a green bog orchid, a tall northern orchid, a tall green northern bog orchid, or any other combination of these common names, all of which have been used to describe both Platanthera huronensis and Platanthera aquilonis. Now we simply nod knowingly and say, “That’s a robust huronensis,” or “That is such a beautiful, delicate aquilonis.” Similarly, we were puzzled as to why the lesser round-leaved orchid (sometimes called the large round-leaved orchid) was much bigger than the round-leaved orchid. Now, whether other folks think of it as lesser or larger, we know it as Platantera orbiculata.
Of the 48 orchids native to Minnesota, we saw 37 in 2021. Many of them we’ve seen before 2021, but many others were new to us. We’ve given up hope of finding a couple of orchids that only grow in a few places or that are most likely extirpated from the state, but we were excited to learn that auricled twayblade, which we thought was a lost cause, grows in what will soon be a new Scientific and Natural Area on the North Shore. Now, auricled twayblade is at the top of the list for next year’s searches, along with the ever-elusive bog adder’s mouth.
We’ve also fallen in love with cedar swamps, where we’ve found bluntleaved orchid, lesser rattlesnake-plantain, calypso, green adder’s-mouth, ram’s-head lady’s-slipper, dragon’s-mouth, heart-leaved twayblade, round-leaved orchid, and striped coralroot.
Even though winter will soon be upon us, thinking about the wealth of wildflowers we’ve seen this past year (and the sometimes sweat-dripping weather we’ve searched for them in) will keep us warm in the frigid months ahead.
P.S. If you are looking for some wildflower winter warmth, too, be sure to stop by our annual holiday show this weekend and check out Kelly’s wildflower photos, Phyllis’s picture books including the most recent, Begin with a Bee, and our 2018 book, Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers. Bonfire, wine, and nummy noshes included! We hope to see you! (See invite below or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!)