Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A developing orchid

with 24 comments

Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchid Opening 8332

When I was at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve on October 27th I saw exactly one Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), and it was at the stage where its flowers were just coming out.

Don’t you like the way the arc of grass in the background frames the upper part of the orchid? Now if we could just get someone down by the river in St. Louis to build a huge sculpture in the shape of one of these orchids….

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2015 at 4:53 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Your pictures and text continue to bring me joy.


    November 2, 2015 at 4:58 AM

    • Jenny and joy: both begin with a j and end with a y. I’m glad you’re enjoying these pictures and text, joyful Jenny.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2015 at 5:08 AM

  2. Oh surely some sculptor would oblige. The arc and the orchid complement each other beautifully.


    November 2, 2015 at 5:49 AM

  3. What’s fun to imagine is an ant or other small insect crawling to the top of that arched grass. Proportionally speaking, they’d have much the same view as a person at the top of the St. Louis Arch. I saw something quite different: a croquet wicket, and the hand-carved handle of a mallet. When I was a kid, homemade croquet sets weren’t common, but they were around. It gave the whittlers something to do during the winter.

    The structure of the plant itself is beautiful. It does call to mind a long, lovely braid.


    November 2, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    • That raises an interesting question: do ants see very well? From what I’ve read and seen in television documentaries, ants are closely regulated by pheromones, so perhaps their eyes aren’t very good. Now that I raised the question, I felt like I had to look for an answer, and I found this:


      As usual, you’ve come up with some nifty analogies: a croquet wicket and the hand-carved handle of a mallet. In the 1800s it was tresses and braids.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2015 at 9:30 AM

      • Of all the things I expected to find in your linked article, pixels, digital cameras, and focal length weren’t on the list. That’s interesting, for sure. For my contribution, I’ll add this, from the Houston Croquet Association. (Who knew?) It seems that croquet dates from around 1850, and many illustrations I found of early female croquet players show them adored wtih tresses and braids. Ah, convergence.


        November 2, 2015 at 9:34 PM

        • Convergence indeed.

          One part of your linked article jumped out at me: “At first, croquet was most popular among women. It was a new experience for them to be able to play a game outdoors in the company of men. Early games of croquet were carefully chaperoned. Tight croquet, which was the practice of putting a foot on the ball and sending the opponent far away into the bushes, allowed the young men to go into the bushes with the young women to search for the ball.” Oh, those wily young folks.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 3, 2015 at 6:42 AM

  4. I noticed that little arc right away.

    Jim in IA

    November 2, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    • Maybe because you were a physics teacher, you reminded me just now of the inverse trig functions: arcsin, arccos, arctan, etc.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2015 at 9:22 AM

  5. What a grand idea!


    November 2, 2015 at 9:32 AM

  6. Me gustan todas las orquídeas. Muy bonita tu foto. Gracias.

  7. That arc is much prettier than the one in St. Louis.


    November 2, 2015 at 6:53 PM

    • Those are the words of a nature lover, but you’d better not let the folks in Missouri hear you say them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2015 at 7:13 PM

  8. Magic pic .. 😊 how wonderful is nature


    November 3, 2015 at 1:48 AM

  9. Glad to see this and it’s a lovely image. I did not see any ladies’ tress orchids this year. Of course, I was probably just not in the right place at the right time.

    Steve Gingold

    November 3, 2015 at 2:50 AM

    • Finding one of these at Wild Basin two weeks ago and then one more last week tipped me off to the arrival of these orchids. This past Saturday I went to check a site closer to me where I’ve found ladies’ tresses for the past several years, and I found about half a dozen. Naturally I took some more pictures, one of which I’ll probably show next week. You may have missed yours this year, but 2016 is just a year away. It help to know a place where a certain species has appeared in previous years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2015 at 8:32 AM

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