Orchids are tricky, sometimes even deceitful. They have evolved seemingly endless strategies for attracting and manipulating insects, their dull-witted partners in reproduction. And curious as it may seem, winter is the prime time to locate and identify two of our native orchid species.
The basal leaves of puttyroot (Aplectrum hymale) and cranefly orchis (Tipularia discolor) emerge in late summer, after the flowering period, and are conspicuous from late November into early spring. Then as the flowering stems emerge in spring, the leaves wither and disappear. For this reason, they are sometimes described as “winter-green” or “summer-deciduous” or “winter-leaf” or “hibernal” orchids, but I think of them as “winter orchids.” Both are common in rocky moist-to-dry woodlands featuring acidic soils.