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Cranefly Orchid
Tipularia discolor

Also known as Crippled Cranefly, or Elfin Spur (perhaps because the flowers are so small, and they have a long spur protruding from the back of each flower?)

Cool facts: This is one of 3 species: 1 in the eastern United States, one in the Himalayas, and one in Japan! Fascinating distribution. Also, the plant is pollinated by a night-flying moth, who, when inserting it’s head into the flower, gets some pollen on it’s eye which is then deposited on the stigma of another flower. This pollination on insect eyes is a common mode of pollen transfer in temperate orchids! Weird.

Interestingly, the single leaf is green all winter long (making it easier to spot!), yet it dies back completely in late spring. Then, in late summer, a flower stalk emerges from the ground and can grow up to 18 inches in height. By late summer, the stalk is covered with orchid flowers. The many tiny flowers that bloom off the long stem of, are light white or translucent, or peach-ish.

Habitat: Mixed hardwoods, rich acidic soil, damp locations, shade.
Flower: Late summer
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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