Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Green Fringed Orchid Blooms

In an uncanny way, the Veblen House and surrounding landscape have time and again rewarded curiosity and optimism. Both the Veblen and Stuart histories have proven richer than they appeared on the surface, so it shouldn't be surprising if a few gems pop up in the plain-looking field next to the house.

This spring, walking through the field, I noticed the first few leaves of a plant that looked out of the ordinary. I put a fence around it, since deer are all too fond of native wildflowers. There were more of the same kind of plant nearby, but I figured they all might be common lily of the valley, so only protected the one.

Once again, I had underestimated the richness of the Veblen site, because the one protected plant grew not into a run of the mill garden plant but a green fringed orchid (Platanthera lacera). It rates 8 out of 10 on the NJ Plant Stewarship Index, which measures the quality of a plant community. Not bad. Without protection, all the others in the field have been eaten down to the ground. Next year, if they still have enough energy in the roots to make another go of it, we'll know to protect them.

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