Nature Strollers

The mission of the Nature Strollers is to support parents and grandparents in their role as primary interpreters of nature for their families; to provide opportunities for families to enjoy unstructured time outdoors; to familiarize families with local trails, refuges, sanctuaries and preserves; and to develop networks among families with a common interest in nature.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Orchid Surprise!

On our walk today, we came across something completely unexpected, a rare and wonderful surprise. Scattered across the forest floor in a secret shady wood, nineteen pink lady's slippers were in bloom. This was so special an event we took several trips out to show them to our Nature Strollers. Several people commented that they had never seen these beautiful orchids before. This specimen was at least a foot tall and impressed these two Nature Strollers with its unusual design. This young lady declared that being the first to spot one entitled the sharp-eyed child to a wish. With so many in bloom, there were plenty of wishes to go around.

Not all of the twin leaves produce a blossom (see the leaves on the left hand side of the photo). Lady's slipper can take four or more years to flower, and then they may not produce a flower every year.
"Graceful and tall the slender, drooping stem,
With two broad leaves below,
Shapely the flower so lightly poised between,
And warm her rosy glow."
---Elaine Goodale

The puffy lady's slipper flowers have an intricate pattern of dark pink veins. Honeybees, bumblebees, andrednid and halictid bees enter the flower, only to find they can progress in only one direction. This one-way street ensures that the bees will pass by the anthers and collect pollen.

Acadia is thrilled with our find. Her very favorite color is, of course, pink!

This is the dried seed capsule from one of last year's lady's slippers. The orchid produces over 100,000 miniscule seeds which are dispersed by the wind. However, they can only grow in spots with the perfect combination of soils, moisture, and particular species of symbiotic fungi. The presence of standing seed capsules will clue you in about where to look for flowers in the spring.
Our eyes dazzled by the beauty of orchids, there is still no way we could miss this startlingly orange creature. Lily inspects the red eft, in high contrast against the green moss of a fallen log. The red eft is a juvenile red spotted newt. It represents the terrestrial phase of an aquatic salamander. Red efts have the ability to survive out of water, cross great (considering their size) distances, and colonize new ponds and swamps.

Here is a close-up of our fine fellow. Look at those spots!

Okay, I haven't taken the time to page through the 400+ photos and descriptions in my caterpillar book to identify this one. He was happily munching on an oak seedling. Doesn't he sport lovely chevrons? I wonder what he will turn into, moth or butterfly?