Little green orchids invade Antrim County

Posted on July 30, 2010

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I noticed them earlier this month.  Itty-bitty green, or lavender, or purple flowers—who knows, maybe they change color—blooming along the trail to the Bay.  The darned things are hard to photograph, let me tell you. (The dear departed little camera, I keep muttering under my breath as I crawled around in the underbrush, would have gotten a much better closeup.)  I thought they looked like some kind of orchid, and after a good bit of page-turning and googling, I decided they’re probably Epipactis helleborine, but I’d be interested in better ideas.

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According to my Peterson Wildflowers field guide, helleborine, although an alien, is common in these parts.  The Botany Department at the University of Wisconsin groused that it’s a weed in Milwaukee and invasive in Door CountyThe Ridges Sanctuary agrees, but their August 13 program is If you can’t beat ’em join ’em, a celebration of the mosquito, so I’m not sure how far you want to trust them.   

By contrast, the Buffalo Museum of Science offers The Helleborine Orchid and the Museum, a graceful profile of a plant that was acquired for their collection . . . inadvertently.  By the time I finished reading that I was laughing.  Dollars to cinnamon rolls, the rascal came to northern Michigan with the Civil War veterans who migrated here from New York.  Everything conspires to send me back to work. 

One more quick distraction.  Ed Post, a Grand Haven photographer, had some fine helleborine images in his Flickr stream.  He also has a stunning Grand Haven sunset, and another over St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park, and a bear, and . . . just go look at his stuff.  You won’t be sorry.

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