“Many collectors died in the process of searching for new species, and despite persistent reports that the men died from drowning, gunshot and knife wounds, snakebite, trampling by cattle, or blows in the head with blunt instruments, it is generally accepted that in each case the primary cause of death was orchid fever.”
― Eric Hansen
Perhaps I got a touch of the aforementioned ‘orchid fever’. I have to admit, I’ve been waiting for this shot for a few weeks now and was thrilled when I came across this beautiful flower, next to a rotting log, in a swampy forest, at Secord Forest this week. Not a new species, but new to me.
Through most seasons, I’ve hiked these trails, enjoyed the wonderfully diverse flora and fauna, and even came across a bear last fall. Along this 4.7km forest trail, there is a section with a wooden sign, designating it as the “Orchid Trail”. This has intrigued me for some time, since I tend to favour these trails in the ‘no-mosquito’ seasons and really had no idea what to look for and when to look for them.
This year has been an exception, I began on the trails just as the snow was melting, hoping to document the natural cycle of this forest through my photos. I was determined that orchids would be on my photographic bucket list and set out learning about them and identifying them. The unfortunate thing with my research was that most books listed blooming season from April to August. That was not much help. So, as I set out each week, I started to look deliberately for plant leaves that fit the description of orchids. I did not even know what species are native to this particular forest and there are several possibilities.
Eventually, a few weeks ago, a few banded leaves emerged from the moist forest floor. Perhaps these were the elusive orchids I sought? Steadily, they grew taller and taller to rise some sixty centimeters (two feet) above the mossy ground. They sure looked like orchids, but they seemed taller than I expected. Back to the books, to find that yes, several species fit the description. More days of just foliage followed, till last week, small green buds formed, offering the promise of flowers. What colour would they be? How long would they last? So many questions, few firm facts.
My weekend plans prevented me from checking back on the buds. What if somebody saw the open flowers on the weekend? The trails are filled with people who may not realize how delicate these plants could be, damage them, and deprive me of my prize.
So, I ventured into the forest at lunch, wondering what state this group of five or six plants would be in. I slowed as I approached, looking for a sign of flower. Then, WOW!, the delicate green plants were topped by the most beautiful pink and white slippers. The mystery plant turned out to be a Showy Lady’s Slipper (cypripedium reginae). I had no idea how large they would be, the blossoms were about 5-8 centimeters (2 inches) long, and perfect. Nobody had disturbed them. I sat on a nearby log for some fifteen minutes just revelling in this wonderful creation, then set out to capture this in photographs, hoping to do them justice, checking and double checking my camera settings, not knowing how long these gems will last or when my next visit might be.
The photo above is the culmination of this quest for orchids. Now I know what to look for, where, and when. During this quest, I also found another interesting orchid, which I am currently researching.
Nikkor AF 28-70mm f/3.5~F/4.5D @ 45mm
1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 450