Tom's Blog

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rattlesnake plantain, a woodland orchid

Rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens) is now in flower. This orchid has a distinctive leaf pattern that makes it easy to identify. It is found in dry upland wooded areas with substantial shade. This species is evergreen and in relatively snow-free winters the snake-like leaves are occasionally seen in the woods. When we were doing lots of tree and brush cutting about 10 years ago, we would frequently see scattered plants. It is easy to identify because of its unique basal leaf structure.

Rattlesnake plantain was probably earlier more common at Pleasant Valley Conservancy than it is today, but it is sensitive to fire. The plant shown in the photo is one of three that is visible from our woods road, so we are able to keep an eye on it. This spring the woods here had a very fine burn but Kathie wetted down these plants well so that when the fire passed by they would be protected. The photo below shows this area during the burn. The orchid habitat is just where the road curves.

Fortunately, I remembered to look for these plants today and was delighted to find two of the three plants in full flower.


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