Rain anyone? Middle June, Dave Hale and I went out searching for Ragged Fringed Orchids (Platanthera lacera) where I had found them previous years. This orchid species is pollinated by moths, at night. I’ve been interested in photographing this nocturnal event. First step, finding them prime during the day.
In route to Dave’s house, I was amazed at the remnants of water damage left across the vast expanses of agricultural fields within Vermilion County. Water must have been everywhere. Dave accumulated 4 inches of precipitation one afternoon in his rain gauge, with 6 inches recorded at Kickapoo State Park. Dave told tales of destruction throughout the county so we detoured to check it out. I was surprised to see farm houses amongst vast expanses of corn I assumed on high enough ground with furniture and carpet drying in their front yards. Mud bars were deposited over country roads and unearthed corn skeletons from past harvests accumulated at every bottleneck.
Kickapoo was destroyed. The ephemeral stream feeding Glenburn Creek, preceding the park entrance, flattened the stand of Pawpaw trees in front of that sandstone ridge, trashed the road, and half buried it’s own culvert. One of the houses along the park’s entry road was gutted and opened up with water stains visible 3 feet up the drywall. Crazy.
After walking in circles for a bit, we ended up finding our orchids. The dry spring appeared to have toasted them before flowering. Perhaps some of our June precipitation would have aided them nicely in May.
Several weeks later I grabbed Sarah and Dave and headed to a cemetery prairie to view the elegant Prairie White Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea). We struck out with one fried plant, but got within spitting distance of a Dickcissel and had an awesome time at the after party – a picnic in the cemetery expansion plot. Sarah and I brought sandwiches, Dave supplied ice cream and a wonderful Black Raspberry dumpling. We finished up the evening with plenty of chatter and a decent summer sunset before calling it a day.
Platanthera has been a bust this year to view in full flower, but it sure has been fun trying.