Orchids and thunderstorms

2007 March 30
by David J. Ringer

DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — It’s been a stormy week in north-central Texas; several inches of rain have fallen across the region. We needed it. According to reports on Texbirds, more and more of our breeding birds are returning from the south, but I haven’t been able to get out and see for myself. Hopefully that will change tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Brian called me up, excited to have discovered spring coralroots (a type of orchid) blooming at Cedar Ridge Preserve. We met there today, hoping to dodge the storms long enough to see them.


Spring coralroots (Corallorhiza wisteriana) are mostly brown, except for the polka dot lip on each flower. They lack chlorophyll and thus cannot produce their own food by photosynthesis. Rather, they steal food from green plants via a fungal “bridge” in a process called mycoheterotrophy. Fascinating stuff!


The plants are extremely inconspicuous, growing just a few inches tall and blending in with fallen leaves on the forest floor. I doubt I ever would have seen them without Brian’s help.

There are other mycoheterotrophic orchids in the Dallas area. Last year, the discovery of Hexalectris grandiflora at Cedar Ridge was big news in certain circles, and my good friend Fjord was there, quite by accident it seems. Perhaps I’ll get to see some other species later in the spring.

Related posts:

  1. Hexalectris grandiflora and other orchids
  2. “Teacher, teacher, teacher!”
  3. Myrmecochory
  4. Coy mistress Spring
  5. Immigrants come in yellow, blue, and pink

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