Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Plant of the Week: Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)

Oh the joys of having a bog garden in the yard in late July and early August.  One of the most outstanding native orchid species, the yellow fringed will make a statement that says "WOW."  Growing from 12 -24" in height with a couple of leaves along the stem, this species occurs pretty much throughout the eastern United States and Canada ranging from Florida to Texas north to  Canada.  It is fairly common in the southeastern states, but becoming rare in northern states.  The individual flowers are about an inche long with a distinctive fringe and a long nectar tube at the rear of the flower.  There can be a handful to several dozen flowers on an individual flowering stem. One of the most fascinating things about this species is that its primary pollinator is the spicebush swallowtail butterfly and they generally nectar on this species from late morning through mid afternoon. On the coastal plain the primary pollinator is the palamedes swallowtail.  The reason the butterflies visit in late morning is that most of the nectar is produced overnight.  Is that not cool! These are among the easiest of all the native orchids to grow, if you have the right habitat, which is generally wet sphagnum (BOG GARDEN) that gets full sun and the pH runs from about 4 to 5.  The growing medium must be kept moist for the plants to do well, although a little drying will not hurt them. The individual plants
arise from fleshy rootstocks that produce buds which will become the following season’s growth.  What this means is that damage to a plant in a given year will affect the vigor and size of the next year’s plant and if you are gentle with them, they will expand their colony to make quite a show.  The Native Americans used the roots of this plant to treat diarrhea and snakebite and as a fish attractant whereby they would attach some of the root to the hooks to make the fish bite better.  Several nurseries sell this plant and it sells out very, very quickly and the plants are expensive.  But if you have a bog garden, this is one plant (along with meadow beauty, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, etc.) that could make quite a show this time of the year.

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