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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Goin' On An Orchid Hunt

Although the upper Midwest is more known for its cold winters, bratwurst, beer, and hotdish, we have more than our fair share of spectacular native orchids. I've spotted a few in northern Wisconsin over the past ten years without really looking for them. And then, last summer, a friend told me where to look for a pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule) along her long, winding driveway through the woods on a gorgeous hillside bordering Lake Superior. I got up close enough to inspect it and snap a picture. Gasp! I'm hooked!

So I have big plans for an orchid hunt this summer. I figure I need to address two things in order to launch my orchidaceous plan: 1) I need to find out where and when to best look for them; and 2) I need to get over my fear, nay, repulsion (bordering on nausea) of ticks. They've ruined many a summer experience for me, and I hate them.

Let's start with the ticks. As they say of winter up here, they also say of ticks: you just need the right gear. I had done all of the standard things to try to keep ticks away, or at least easily visible and removable, like wearing light-colored clothing, sandals instead of shoes and socks, and stuffing clothes in a hot drier if I suspected I was carrying any niggling contraband passengers. Tick checks galore, too, of course. But it just wasn't enough to convince me I was safe. Recently, the You Bet Your Garden podcast covered other, newer methods of tick prevention, the most promising of which to me is InsectShield clothing--pants, shirts, etc, that have tick repellant implanted in them that lasts for 70 washings. So, first, I'm ordering some clothing that die-hard outdoor enthusiasts swear by.

Here's a few links on how to deal with ticks:

Now, the fun part: figuring out where and when to find local/regional wild orchids. My resources at this point are a) a few good books (always the best first step), b) the web, and c) a suite of friends that I'm hoping will alert me to all things orchidaceae. As for the books, I found these at my local bookstores:

I like both titles because they are designed well for the beginner to intermediate orchid hunter, have full-color pictures, good maps, keys, and phenology charts to tell me when each orchid's peak blooming season falls. So, in addition to more Cyp. acaule, I'm hoping to see things like the classic showy lady's slipper (Minnesota's state flower) Cyp. reginae:

Little 8-inch tall Calypso bulbosa would be a dream:

Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) is spotted frequently in my area as well:

I'm also dreaming of the yellow lady's slipper, white bog orchid, ragged fringed orchid, dragon's mouth orchid, small green wood orchid, round-leaved bog orchid, and showy orchis, among dozens of others. (Hmmm, with all these bogs, I might need to invest in some waders as well.)

For more current updates of the regions in which particular orchids can be found in your area, check out iNaturalist: The map is zoomable and interactive, so you can click on your region of the world to find general locations and the specific types of orchids (and all other kinds of plants) nature lovers have spotted near you.

Lastly, I'll be sidling up to the botanists I know, as well as getting the word out to floriferously-inclined friends, kindly asking them to shoot me a text if they see anything interesting. And of course, I'll do the same in return. I'm sure I can also gather a gaggle of plant buddies to traipse through the forests and bogs with me at least a few times this summer...especially if I provide the bratwurst and beer at the end of the trail.


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