Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best of 2014: May

Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes)
The magnificent Kisatchie National Forest occupies 944 square miles of western Louisiana. It sprawls across seven parishes from just a few miles south of I-20 to just below the center of the state.

This past summer, I began to appreciate the splendors of the Kisatchie as never before. My May birthday gift to myself was a 3-day plant identification workshop with my friend Dr. Charles Allen, botanist for the U.S. Army at Fort Polk. He and his wife run Allen Acres, a B&B surrounded by gardens just a few miles south of Cravens, La., along Highway 399.

The plant workshop included several field trips around Allen Acres and into neighboring Kisatchie National Forest land. But my driving route to Allen Acres includes Highway 436 through the eastern edge of the Kisatchie and past an area called Cooter's Bog.

I left for the workshop in plenty of time to stop and shoot along the way if I saw something interesting. So when I got to Cooter's Bog in the late afternoon, I stopped.

Wow! What a beautiful spot! Not huge, but in 30 minutes and within just a few yards of the access road, I photographed more than a dozen wildflower species, plus long leaf pine saplings and ferns.

But my pride and joy is the shot of above. When I spied this plant, I was not sure but I thought it was a wild orchid. Imagine my excitement when I got to Allen Acres, showed my shots to Dr. Allen and he indeed identified it as a wild orchid, common name "Lady's Tresses" of the genus Spiranthes.

Unfortunately, I did not photograph the leaves, so he could not name a species, but I'm still excited about my first ever wild orchid find. Since then, I've seen many more, but nothing compares with the first!

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