Nature: Summer days are ripe for adventure



Pink lady’s slipper.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTH GRIERSON

Each day is a wonderful opportunity for a wonderful adventure this time of year on Mount Desert Island.

A friend sent me a beautiful photograph he had just taken of a pink lady’s slipper here on the island. It is a flower not to be missed these days. Don’t ever pick it! Just enjoy its beauty and take photographs.

The pink lady’s slipper is also called moccasin flower and whippoorwill shoe. It is the most exquisite flower growing here on MDI, in my opinion. The single pink blossom borne at the top of the stem resembles a lady’s pink slipper.

Unlike some orchids that clump together, the pink lady’s slipper usually likes to grow alone, in patches, so you may see many plants in your field of vision. Although the preferred habitat may be shaded woods, I have found it almost everywhere from damp, shaded thickets in the depths of some swamp to dry, rocky hillsides and even on cliffs, as well as in deep woods and fields not far from the shore. Occasionally you may find a white pouch growing in with the pink ones. Although the blossoms get all the attention, the large (6-8 inches long and 2-3 feet wide) veined basal leaves are well worth noticing.

In front of the thick, veined pouch is a cleft where insects enter. Getting in is no problem, but exiting is a different story for some like a bumblebee. Those that get in have trouble getting out and become trapped inside. Don’t miss this flower!

Dragon’s mouth orchid flower in the morning.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

There is another wild orchid to look for now in the swamps and bogs – the Arethusa bulbosa, bog-rose orchid or dragon’s mouth. Golfers at local greens often encounter this flower as they look for their lost ball in swampy areas. If in your search for your lost ball you find this gorgeous orchid, consider it a good day.

This native orchid has a single, delicate, rosy flower at the top of the stem, but the flower looks as if it is upside down! The single flower at the top of the stem is rosy pink, sometimes white, and has a bearded lip. A single grass-like leaf appears after the bloom. With the light-colored petals and sepals pointing upwards, the lower lip out and downward, the flower, to me, looks to me like an elegant lady’s hand ready to accept a cup of afternoon tea.

The tip of this interesting flower is recurved and spreading. It is often fringed magenta blotched and crested with three white ridges. All this forms a very conspicuous landing place for visiting insects, usually bumblebees. The bee enters the flower for nectar and picks up powdery pollen masses as it leaves. Both plant and insect benefit. Don’t wait too long to find this handsome orchid in our local bogs. The blossoming season is short.

Orchids come up year after year from thick, fleshy roots. They grow slowly and are difficult to grow from seeds. They should NEVER be picked in the wild. The root fungus symbiosis known as mycorrhiza is vital to all North American orchids and it is this delicate, close relationship between fungus and orchid that makes transplanting almost impossible. The orchid receives food from the fungus and is dependent on the fungus for germination and growth.

The black-crowned night heron is a medium-sized heron found throughout a large part of the world, except in the coldest regions and Australasia.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

A black-crowned night heron was heard in Bernard this week. This is a special bird to look for early in the morning and at twilight. Its general appearance is a short, chunky heron shrugging its shoulders. Look for the black back and pale grey or white below. The wings are gray. I find it a handsome bird and quite beautiful. I can’t really describe in words what its squawk sounds like, but when you hear it at dusk, you’ll want to find out what is making the noise.

This past winter when I was in South Carolina sitting on the edge of a lovely lagoon where there were all sorts of water birds, I saw at one time a night heron, four pink spoonbills with their spatula-shaped, big bills, egrets, pelicans and ibis. I’ll never forget that day.

Here in MDI, I have seen night herons near the bridge next to the school in Bass Harbor, Back Beach and at the Algerine Coast picnic area. The bird has a bit of a hunchback look waiting for fish to appear. It is a nice bird to see and hear.

Take time to enjoy whatever appears for you this week in nature.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected]

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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