Gems Close to Home

We often think of orchids as rare tropical plants that grow on trees.  Did you know we have quite a selection of them in Pennsylvania? 

The Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania‘s Wildflowers of Pennsylvania illustrates 37 species in our state.  But don’t look for them in the trees.  Our orchids are terrestrial.

One of them is Nodding Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) and it’s blooming right now.  According to Wildflowers of Pennsylvania, “Nodding Ladies’ Tresses is usually found as colonies in marshy fields, wet meadows and ditches throughout Pennsylvania.”  

Dianne and Bob Machesney found this one at Moraine State Park last Sunday.  “We found 57, in groups of one, two or three, along a half mile trail in a strip mined area, reclaimed with pines.”

The photo above is a close-up of the flower spike; the whole plant is shown below.

Look for Pennsylvania’s orchids and you’ll find gems close to home.

(photos by Dianne Machesney)

4 thoughts on “Gems Close to Home

  1. Anyone who would like to learn more about our native plants should attend the field trips of the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania ( A few weeks ago they went to a bog on the West Virginia/Maryland border below Uniontown, where we saw Nodding Ladies’ Tresses, Cranberries, Winterberry, Wintergreen, and many other native plants (in their fruiting phase). They also went to a bog near Erie in July where we saw three other native orchids. It’s a great group of people who are very knowledgeable and welcoming. Anyone can attend the field trips, without being a member of the society.

  2. Great pics! Thanks for the reminder to look for this plant now!

    It has been a few years since I have seen it on my property, since I forget to look for it in the fall. I will go hunting for it soon!

    I love PA’s wild orchids. I am so fortunate that my all-time favorite wildflower, Pink Lady’s Slipper, also grows and blooms on my property!

  3. Didn’t get a chance to respond to the great pictures of the male Cardinals. They were
    Here in Shaler behind my place is a hillside full of native Honeysuckle and the Cardinals are thriving. There has been at least 2 broods this year and it has been fun to see the parents teaching the young to fly to the bird feeder. And also some funny looking Cardinals when they went throug molting.

  4. I found these a few weeks ago in another strip mined site in Schuylkill County! I thought they were Ladies’ Tresses, but I wasn’t sure. Thanks for posting!

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