Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slogging Through a Ditch

A fellow nature nut, and orchid enthusiast, who works for the National Park Service downstate, advised me to keep an eye open for Spiranthes at the roadside ditch where I found the smaller purple fringed orchids.

Spiranthes are the Ladies' Tresses orchids (there are several species). The name Spiranthes refers to the spiraling shape of the flowers' location around the stem. Think "spiral staircase." It seems that most have a single spiral, but some are double. The double ones are difficult to actually discern as a spiral, but with imagination you might see it.

According to Dave, Spiranthes like to have their feet damp/wet, so if I had purple fringed, I was likely to have ladies' tresses as well. So, I've been looking. I knew they were white, but every white flower I've seen in the ditch was an aster...until two days ago.

One stalk of white flowers looked different, so I dragged the dog down the ditch and there it was!

I'm leaning towards it being Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) because it had grass-like leaves (as opposed to a rosette of leaves at the base of the stem).

I took these photos last night after work. The ditch had standing water, and the rest of it was thoroughly sodden. I had to kneel down to get the photos, so I got thoroughly sodden as well. Then it started to rain. So, I figured that since I was already wet, I'd see what else I could find in the ditch.

Eyebright (Euphrasia americana) was all over the place.

I find this flower very difficult to photograph, mostly because purples just don't turn out well in the photos! There must be a secret to capturing purples.

I was most pleased, however, with this small dragonfly.

I believe it is a White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum), for it did have a white face (which only showed up in one shot that is a bit blurry). According to the Stokes Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies, this genus is difficult to ID to species.

"The red meadowhawks of North America present an intractable field problem. ...The White-faced/Cherry-faced/Ruby complex is partcularly troublesome. Although face color can be useful, it can be difficult to see in the field and is not always a reliable indicator."

Most of the other flowers were asters and goldenrods. One of these days I'm going to start a photo collection of the different species of goldenrod in Newcomb. It'll be interesting to see how many we have.


  1. Ooh, ooh, you found a flower I've never seen! Perhaps Eyebright grows farther north than Saratoga County.

    Good luck identifying all the goldenrods. Not only are there about a gazillion of them, they probably hybridize. Same with all the asters.

    Nice dragonfly!

  2. I found some Eyebright the other week and was having a hard time identifying it. Doh, I passed it by I don't know how many times in my field guides.

    Thankfully a visitor gave me a name and a Google later I ended up here. I almost envy you living in Newcomb - but winter isn't too far off.