Behold the Gold Shoe

Today’s quest found me

seeking the Holy Grail,

though floral in form.

Yellowish-greens danced

on the breeze like dainty skirts.

Not the ones I sought.

Red stamens on one

dangled from the second tier.

Not the ones I sought.

Three distinct edges

of the capsule formed below.

Not the ones I sought.

More yellow tinges

on anthers hanging under.

Not the ones I sought.

Birds ready to fly

with wings a deep magenta.

Not the ones I sought.

At long last the stairs

Leading to the palace door.

Not the ones I sought.

Two more sets of stairs

But the palace door still closed.

Not the ones I sought.

Five sets of stairs checked,

each time the palace locked.

No shoes of gold here.

At last more steps climbed

and the palace doors opened.

My search had ended.

Uncommon in Maine,

the Holy Grail I sought.

Spring ephemeral.

Behold the gold shoe.

A showy forest orchid.

This Lady’s Slipper.

P.S. Thanks to Parker, Carol, and Ursula for sharing these flowers with me on past tramps we’ve shared.

June Dandies

It’s early June and our world is lush, given this past winter’s snow and now the spring rain. Areas that we remembered as being dry last year, are filled with puddles or streams right now ( I promise I’m not going the mention those pesky little buzzers that frolic about my face and sting my hands–and how much they’re loving the current conditions. I did spot some dragonflies yesterday, but today not a one).

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It’s those wet conditions that threw a friend and I off for a wee bit this afternoon as we tramped through the woods in search of a yellow lady’s slipper. Initially, we were about fifteen feet too far to the right as we tried to avoid the water.

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After wandering for a short bit, we finally found it on a bit of dry land–and then stood in awe–at our own ability to locate the flower, but even more so at the flower itself.  Yellow lady’s slippers are not rare, but uncommon and so we rejoiced with our find. They prefer mesic (moderately moist) nutrient-rich forests (as well as in bogs and swamps), thus the water (and mosquitoes–okay, so I broke my promise).

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Lady’s slippers are members of the orchid family.  I used to think orchids were flowers girls wore on their wrists for senior prom or grandmas coveted–though I never knew either of my grandmothers, but certainly it was an “old lady’s” flower. My, how my understanding and appreciation has changed because I am certainly NOT an old lady. Or am I?

Check out the reddish-brown dotted pathway–like landing lights at an airport runway. Their intention is to guide pollinators. If we remember to return in the fall and look for a seedpod, we’ll know that the dots worked. They often don’t.

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We could have gone home then, so tickled were we with our success of finding that pouch of a flower, but . . . as you might expect, we continued on, making several brook crossings as we went.

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Everywhere, mosses and liverworts offered forty shades of green. Oh wait–that’s Ireland. But right now, it’s western Maine as well.

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And because it was so damp, the forest we roamed was filled with Christmas ferns featuring young and old blades.

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We even found one that sprouted an Indian Cucumber Root whorl as if it was a flower.

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But what aroused our curiosity was another that seemed to have been affected by insects forming galls. Neither of us could remember seeing anything like this before, but then again, so many times when we see something we think of as new, we soon discover that it’s more prevalent than we realized. That being said, we only found the “galls” on a few of these ferns, all in the same area in a wet seep.

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Further along, we noted sessile-leaved bellworts, in flower a month ago, now sporting their seedpods or wild oats that speak to their other common name. And the leaf of at least this one had been visited by an insect–a leaf minor trail standing out in white against the green.

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r-cannoddling craneflies

And then we found craneflies canoodling. They didn’t seem to care that we watched.

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They weren’t our only wildlife sightings (besides the mosquitoes–did I mention mosquitoes?). A young American toad hopped by, pausing ever so slightly to show off its raised warts.

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And a frog slipped into the water–the better to escape our ogling.

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As we wound our way around a wetland filled with cinnamon ferns, we noted a few flowers in bloom or about to bloom.

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Yellow clintonia,

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Jack-in-the-pulpit (times two actually–and I’m not sure how we spied these for they hid like trolls under their leaves),

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Indian cucumber root,

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and early coralroot caught our attention.

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Not yet in bloom was the round-leaf pyrola, aka American shinleaf. Oh darn, another reason to return and see it blossom.

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And just past its blossoming stage–red trillium,

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its red leached to almost maroonish brown and stamen looking rather gray.

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Despite the mosquitoes (what mosquitoes?) and a few raindrops, we shared a fun afternoon hike circling the path of the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Ron’s Loop by Five Kezar Ponds.

The journey was with my friend named Pam, not June. But June is the month and together we enjoyed numerous dandies that need to be enjoyed in the moment for soon we’ll not realize they ever existed.

June dandies indeed–worth making time to wander and wonder. (Despite the mosquitoes.)

 

 

Slippers fit for a Princess–including Cinderella

My day was bookmarked by slippers so beautiful that I think Cinderella would trade in her glass shoes for one of these. The question is–which one?

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A young friend who has made it his career to search the woods for orchids and fungi introduced a small group of us to these this morning. I’d met this variety previously, but not in this particular location. We oohed and aahed as we encircled the plant–paying reverence. Though we didn’t curtsy, our respect was tinged with awe.

Members of the Orchid family, lady’s slippers feature the typical three petals in an atypical fashion. The pouch (or slipper or moccasin), called the labellum, is actually one petal–inflated and veined.

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With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twist and turn offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, it’s simply elegant.

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Peeking inside, we noticed the runway–meant to attract pollinators.

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Bees follow the runway into the inflated lip, where they quickly discover that nectar is not available. Because of the one-way opening, their exit is not easy.

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In order to escape, they must depart through the back of the lip, where they brush against the stigma and deposit pollen from a nearby flower visited previously.  Simultaneously, as is the way with flowers, the bee picks up a new pollen packet from the anthers to share with other flowers. Due to the lack of nectar, however, bees don’t frequent the species and few lady’s slippers produce fruit. I didn’t see a single bee near this beauty.

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This afternoon I was invited to spend some time visiting friends and exploring their property where pink lady’s slippers bloom prolifically. While the yellow shoe is situated parallel to the ground, the pink shoe dangles downward. Overall, it reminds me of a lady holding out her skirt as she bows before the queen.

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It’s a symbiotic relationship with a fungi that helps the lady’s slipper germinate. And then, it still takes a few years for the germinated seed to produce leaves and about 3-5 years before it produces a flower. Once established, however, it may live for 20-30 years or more.

And do you see what I see? To the right of this particular flower? A woody pod. A seed pod, indeed. And a rare find.

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Despite the lack of pollinators and fruits, a single capsule contains thousands of seeds. The presence of lady’s slippers indicates rich soil.

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So which slipper do you think Cinderella would choose? Though I’ll never consider the pink as ordinary,  I’ve a feeling the golden slipper would be the one that fits her best.