Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It’s orchid time again

with 42 comments

Ladies' Tresses Orchid in Woods 1898

The rocky, hilly, northwestern part of Austin that I live in lies along the eastern fringe of a large region known as the Texas Hill Country. Just a few miles from my home is the slope shown here, which on October 29th was home to this Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid, Spiranthes magnicamporum (in fact magnicamporum is botanical Latin for ‘of the Great Plains’, even if the species’ range extends into Austin’s hills as well). The dark trunks in the distance are Ashe junipers, Juniperus ashei.

If you’d like a closer look at one of these orchids in isolation, you’re invited to check out a post from the fall of 2012.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2014 at 5:44 AM

42 Responses

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  1. Are you getting some freezing temps? Orchids won’t like that.
    We had 13˚ this morning. Light snow tomorrow. 😦

    Jim in IA

    November 14, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    • I visited this orchid two days ago and it was still looking healthy. The weather forecast yesterday had included an overnight low of 27° but when I looked this morning I found a temperature here that was a few degrees above freezing, so I hope the orchid is still healthy.

      Happy snow. Nothing like that here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 8:17 PM

  2. Such a lovely photo!! Very small but very beautiful flowers!

    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    November 14, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    • The individual flowers are small, true, but the ensemble adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 9:08 PM

  3. When it comes to autumn, reds and yellows may thrill a fellow (and girls, too) but greens and whites also delight. I especially like the pale burgundy tones of the background. The Ashe juniper never looked better.


    November 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    • I was out hunting for some of those reds and yellows today, and there were indeed some to thrill this fellow. Add that to the delight in the sight of the orchids at the site shown in today’s photo, a place I return to each fall in search of these ladies’ tresses. This year I found about half a dozen there, fewer than in some years but more than in some others.

      I drove past a bunch of wineries today but didn’t see any burgundy, pale or otherwise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 9:13 PM

  4. Very, very, pretty. And, the best kind of pretty … that which is understated. D

    Pairodox Farm

    November 14, 2014 at 11:29 AM

  5. So jealous!

    • Rather than jealous you can be zealous in your quest for native orchids.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      • Ah, Steve, our native orchids are sooooo rare that most areas where they grow are protected and not accessible by the public! Sadly for me other places where one can visit are not particularly accessible for people with mobility problems. I know that they grow on the Surrey Hills, a ridge of limestone hills nearby, but I haven’t been able to explore them since my childhood. I’m thankful that we do still have native orchids growing wild in the UK! Their habitat is constantly under threat.

        Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

        November 15, 2014 at 4:55 AM

        • I’m sorry to hear you haven’t been able to visit your native orchids, Sarah, but glad to know they still exist, however rare they may have become.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2014 at 5:02 AM

  6. Fragile and beautiful, what an amazing combination…Great photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    November 14, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    • Thanks, Charlie. I look forward to ladies’ tresses orchids each fall, especially now that I know some places to find them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 9:33 PM

  7. Lucky you to still have Orchids outdoors right now! This is a very pretty looking flower, how big is it? It looks like the flowers are very small but the raceme is kind of long…? Are these pretty common, easy to find? I’d love to see some Orchids in the wild. Perhaps next year… 😀 Thanks for sharing. Now I’m going to check out your other post about this, perhaps the answers are there!


    November 14, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    • We don’t have many kinds of orchids in Austin, so I’m always excited when I come across any of them. Ladies’ tresses are far and away the most common kind (though still not all that common), and they bloom in the autumn. I’m estimating the spike you see here, which was about twice as high as the shortest of the half dozen I found, was approximately a foot tall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 14, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      • Okay interesting, I was going to guess 7 inches or so, even better. I checked that USDA link you put up and it turns out they’re in the Midwest too! Certainly too late to go out for them now (we’re covered in snow) but I’m going to remember these ladies.


        November 14, 2014 at 10:52 PM

  8. That’s a very pretty orchid. We have a cousin here.


    November 14, 2014 at 10:12 PM

  9. Ah, nice delicate orchid. I see Nodding Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) here often, but I missed them this year, unfortunately.

    Steve Gingold

    November 15, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    • When I first encountered these in my part of town about six years ago, I thought they were Spiranthes cernua, because that’s the species featured in the most popular local guide to native plants, but botanist Bill Carr straightened me out and said the ones I was seeing were Spiranthes magnicamporum.

      Sorry to hear you missed your local ladies’ tresses orchid this year, but in a wink and a nod it’ll be autumn again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2014 at 4:47 AM

      • I don’t take that reference to the speedy passing of time with any comfort, Steve. Although, I must admit that the length of winter is a bit depressing and I will be anxious for it to pass so the Spring Ephemerals will return. And many of the wild annuals need the stratification of a deep freeze to germinate next year but, all in all, winter can zip by with no complaints from me. However, I then expect the clock to slow to a more pleasing crawl.

        Steve Gingold

        November 15, 2014 at 6:12 AM

        • They say that what goes around comes around, but I’ll add that the seasons come around faster and faster now, whether we wish them to or not. Maybe the knowledge of which native plants bloom in which season has accelerated my perception of one season passing into the next, and perhaps yours as well.

          As for your half-year of winter up there, I long ago traded it for a half-year of summer down here.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2014 at 6:23 AM

          • Yup, smart move on your part. When we got engaged, Mary Beth and I debated staying around Philadelphia or coming back here. While Philly isn’t Texas, there is a shorter winter and it is closer to many other warm places. But we opted for New England and live with our decision. When it is autumn I am glad…when it is winter not as much.

            Steve Gingold

            November 15, 2014 at 6:30 AM

  10. […] Schwartzman posted a very nice image of his local Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum) and in our comments we mentioned this cousin species that I see locally.  I had not uploaded an […]

  11. Any lady would be pleased to have tresses like this; bound with green ribbon and decorated with white flowers.


    November 15, 2014 at 7:05 AM

  12. I feel like I am watching a tennis match with you two!
    Now, if a lady could weave the beautiful V.C. through her tresses, that would really be something, wouldn’t it? That might make for a fun painting.


    November 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    • You’re the painter, so go for it!

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    • What with freedom of expression and artistic license, I agree with Steve that you should go for it, Melissa.

      Steve Gingold

      November 15, 2014 at 7:48 PM

      • Melissa:

        We all would like to know
        How many morns and eves
        Will come and then will go
        Before you please the Steves.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 15, 2014 at 7:58 PM

  13. […] It occurred to me that you may not know what a ladies’ tresses orchid looks like, so here’s a conventional view taken at the same site six years ago. Within that post is a link to a more esthetic view from the […]

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