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Time again for ladies’ tresses orchids

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Last fall I found exactly zero Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) at a site in northwest Austin that I’ve been going to for over a decade to photograph them. This year, tipped off by Meg Inglis on October 19th that the ladies’ tresses in her area a little west of Austin had already been coming out for a while, I went to “my” property on October 24th and soon located a dozen or so, even though it was unusually early in the season for me to expect any there. I photographed several of the orchids from the side, which is “normal,” but I also had the urge to do some limited-focus portraits looking down from above for a change. The brown around the spike of spiraling flowers came from drying leaves on the ground.

UPDATE. 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 side.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Not many ladies’ tresses orchids this year

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On October 22nd I checked out a site a few miles from home where I look for ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in the fall. I didn’t find any. On November 17th at Wild Basin I located exactly two and photographed exactly one. What an exacting fellow I am.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Details, details

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In a comment an hour ago on this morning’s post about a Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), Dianne requested a closeup. Okay, I’m easy. Here’s a zoomed-in look at a picture I took yesterday of one of these orchids alone. Actually not alone, as I discovered when I looked at the enlargement: in the upper left corner of the picture you’ll find a crab spider whose body probably wasn’t more than one-eighth of an inch (3mm) long.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Ladies’ tresses and queen’s delight

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Yesterday morning I got my annual wake-up call in the form of an e-mail from Meg Inglis alerting me that the Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in her area to the west of Austin were flowering. Within a couple of hours I went to a place in my part of town that has been reliable for that species, and sure enough, I found some orchids that were doing their thing. In other years I’ve shown you ladies’ tresses in isolation, so this year for variety I’m giving you a picture of an orchid I found yesterday touching a plant called queen’s delight (Stillingia texana).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2017 at 4:56 AM

A vertebral orchid

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Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchid 8416

Not long ago you saw a developing Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum). Now here’s a fully developed and decidedly vertebral specimen that I found on October 31st near the intersection of Old Spicewood Springs Rd. and Spicewood Springs Rd. before I continued a few hundred feet downhill to photograph the maximally flowing waterfall on a tributary of Bull Creek. At a different scale, note the drops of rain on this orchid.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2015 at 5:20 AM

A developing orchid

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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

It’s orchid time again

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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

Time for ladies’ tresses orchids

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Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchid Buds Opening 9379A

When I got back from Arkansas on November 10th, I found a phone message from Meg Inglis saying that there were some groups of ladies’ tresses orchids, Spiranthes magnicamporum, flowering in her neighborhood. (Thanks, Meg, and people like you who tip me off to sightings of native plants.) So, after driving 1300 miles in four days, the next afternoon I set out on the 30-mile trek to see the ladies’ tresses a little south of the town of Bee Cave. The orchids were growing in a ditch along Westcave Loop and were mostly surrounded by drying grass, so I had to get low and mat down small areas of the grass in order to have a clear view of any of the orchids. As you can see, the buds on this one were still opening, and the direction of the opening is clear: from bottom to top. If you’d like to see what one of these spikes looks like when all its flowers have opened, you can check a post from last November.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, and 6 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2013 at 5:57 AM

Ladies’ tresses

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There are only a few kinds of native orchids in central Texas, and if a person here encounters one at all, it’s likely to be Great Plains ladies’ tresses*, Spiranthes magnicamporum, which blooms in the fall. On October 29th I came home to a phone message from native plant enthusiast Meg Inglis, who alerted me to the appearance of some of those orchids on a street in her neighborhood. That area is at least 20 miles from where I live, but several years ago I found a fair number of ladies’ tresses on an undeveloped property in my part of town, so I took Meg’s message as a call to action to check out my local spot and see if any had also appeared close to home. They had indeed, and now you get to see one, another first for this blog. All told, I discovered only half a dozen ladies’ tresses; that number compares unfavorably to the couple of dozen I found on the property in 2009 and 2010, but favorably to the zero that came up in the drought year of 2011. Here’s to a happy recovery.

To see the many places in North America where this orchid grows, you can consult the state-clickable map at the USDA website.


* Some sources use the singular, lady’s tresses, but I’ll be magnanimous with the magnicamporum and attribute these tresses to more than one lady.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2012 at 6:15 AM

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