Only an Appetizer

Snowy orchid ~ Platanthera nivea


When it’s 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s tempting to think, “There always will be another day” before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Yesterday, I was tempted. I’d planned to go to east Texas to see what I could see.  I prefer making the trip on Sunday because of lighter traffic and no road construction, and I knew the weather would be fine, if summertime-hot.

Still: it was 4 a.m.

Knowing Texas weather as I do, I also realized that if I missed making the trip, it could be two or even three weeks before another perfect Sunday presented itself. I got up.

Had I not, I might have missed this year’s bloom of Platanthera nivea. One colony thrived in a familiar place; one was new. Eventually, I’ll show other photos of this rare Texas orchid, but this will do for now.

As for the future? When that little voice in my head grows insistent, saying, “Go!” I intend to listen.


Comments always are welcome.

80 thoughts on “Only an Appetizer

    1. They’re spurs, similar to those found on toadflax or larkspur, but longer. Liggio describes the spur as being about 2/3″ long, although, on the plants I found, some were nearly an inch long. They’re quite dramatic.

        1. I assumed they were nectaries,and that seems to be the case. The Wiki article notes that “Darwin predicted that the Angraecum sesquipedale, an orchid with an extremely long spur, must be pollinated by a pollinator with an equally long tongue.The pollinator, the sphinx moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta, was found and described 40 years after Darwin made his prediction.”

          The North American Orchid Center says that this orchid is “pollinated by butterflies and skippers, including Lerema accius. The pollinia attach to the proboscis as the insect probes for nectar, then pollen is transferred to the next flower it visits.”

    1. Especially this time of year, the early-rising sun means an early rise to the heat. Early to bed and early to rise at least means we can get a few things done before words like ‘oppressive’ come to mind.

      I was so surprised to see the orchids. My time sense is off, and I would have said it’s too early in the year for them. Clearly, that isn’t so.

  1. That orchid is gorgeous, Linda.

    (and a little voice inside my head said “Go” also – I’m moving house in about 3 weeks.)

    1. Isn’t it a pretty thing? I’m hoping when I look at the rest of the photos tonight I have some (or at least one) that’s a little sharper, and that shows that pure white even better.

      For some reason, I’m not surprised you’ve decided on a move. As the buildings around you kept going up and up, I wondered if that might happen. It’s quite a process, to say the least, but even after my dithering and apprehension, I’m so glad I mad my move. After six months, I feel like I’ve been here forever — and the birds and squirrels that have figured out I’m the source of the goodies probably hope I’ll stay here forever.

      1. I’ll put a note on my blog soon. Turns out the construction workmen(?) took away the large sign at the top of the hill and my booked taxi couldn’t find my address last Wednesay and after struggling up the hill with a heavy bag and calling the taxi company again, I finally ended up late for my appointment (despite allowing 50 min for a 25 min drive). That issue and the recent more loud noise by the construction crew finally ‘clinched the decision.’ I could list a dozen different issues that have made this current location no longer desirable (including ambulances not being able to find my building last year in an emergency situation).

    1. Doesn’t it, though? It reminds me of a different kind of sculpture: the art porcelain called Lotus Ware , produced here by Knowles, Taylor, Knowles circa 1892-1896. Both the orchid and some of the Lotus Ware are the most beautiful, pure white.

        1. Exactly so. There are many collectors who refer to Lotus Ware as American Belleek, because of the quality of the porcelain and the nature of the decoration.

  2. Linda, I’m glad your little voice was insistent … and that you listened to it. This is a beauty! Color, shape, delicacy — all splendid. Does it have any fragrance??

    1. What’s so odd is that I hadn’t consciously remembered that this is ‘their time’ to bloom, but when I went back into my files from last year, sure enough: I have photos of them taken on June 9. Apparently the flowers pay attention to their calendar, even if I don’t pay attention to mine.

      They do have a very light, pleasant fragrance. I didn’t notice it in the past, but this year, with more flowers blooming and not much wind, it seemed to hang in the air a bit.

        1. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it. Not knowing the day of the week is one thing. Not being certain what month it is? That’s quite a different thing.

    1. They’re really quite a sight. Their stems can be as much as two feet or more tall, so that little tree-shaped flower head on top is even more delightful. It just occurred to me that the bloom is etheree-shaped when full. I’ll have to think on that a bit, too.

    1. It takes a lot to beat good coffee and a scone in the morning, but these did it! I’m going to try and go back and catch them in late afternoon light, just because.

  3. A very pure white, almost like a fancy porcelain decoration. A few weeks ago, I was still up at 4 AM, participating in an overseas meeting, otherwise, the only voice I hear at 4 AM is the cat’s, saying Go! Go open the kitchen door, so I can go outside! and then my own internal voice, saying Go! Go Back To Bed!

    1. You’re exactly right about the porcelain decoration. An East Liverpool company — Knowles,Taylor, Knowles — produced fine art porcelain in the late 1800s; it was called Lotus Ware, and some of the pieces are as purely white as this flower.

      Dixie Rose never was an outdoor cat, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t willing to prowl and harass about that time in the morning. She’d usually wait until 5, except for a couple of weeks in the spring and the fall when daylight saving time coming or going got us out of synch.

  4. I’m glad you hoisted yourself out of bed and shared your find. The filaments are interesting; I didn’t recognize the scientific name of the skipper that you mention, but looked it up and it’s a Clouded Skipper, which I see here in Austin, especially in late summer/fall. Your photo is spectacular!

    1. I’m eager to sort through the rest of the photos and see what I have. It was partly cloudy and windy, and the scudding clouds could change the light — and change it back again — in a second. At least those wonderful pines provided a windbreak! I love the loooong spurs. I was surprised to see how common the orchid can be in the southeast; it grows in their ditches and fields like our dandelions, and it isn’t at all a threatened plant. It’s just uncommon here, since we’re at the western edge of its range, and it’s losing ground to development.

  5. Got your email—jealous you saw it!

    We didn’t get up at 4am but it was early compared to our normal waking time these work-from-home days so we were zonked on Saturday after our trip to SBNWR. No orchids but still found great things.

    Note to self: next time to go to east Texas first of June instead of May!

    1. I found a few of these orchids last year, and I have photos from June 9 and June 22, so that gives you what probably is the window for them. They were fading by the 22nd, but they were at the same stage of growth as last year’s when I found them Sunday. My time sense is so badly off, it just felt too early for them. I guess my unconscious new it was time to go!

      The fringed Chapman’s orchid is a July bloomer. It’s quite abundant at Watson. As soon as I run across some I’ll let you know, just in case you want to make the trip.

    1. As Woody Allen once said (or wrote, I’m not sure which): “The longest journey begins with a single step. The best journeys begin with a moment of temporary insanity”.

    1. Heading to the Big Thicket always is a pleasure, especially since the crowds tend to go the other direction, to the beach. Even at home, I enjoy the mornings — especially now that I’ve developed an assorted flock of birds and squirrels that are waiting to entertain with their singing and their antics.

    1. You’re right about that. And of course this wasn’t the only treat I found, although it certainly was the highlight of the day. I still haven’t quite figured out why no one else has been visiting the place. I’ve seen a very few people in the past couple of months, but the last two times I’ve been there, there hasn’t been another human. There have been a couple of really cute turtles, though.

  6. You were wise to get up early as east Texas can be no-breeze-hot in the summer. It was a great beach day here with clear sunny skies and no breeze. This appetizer is delightful. I will look forward to seeing more and interested in where you found them.

    1. I just was going through my spam file, and found this comment from you! Honestly — I don’t know how the system makes these decisions, but it can be frustrating. I’m just glad I found you.

      You sure are right about how hot and humid it can be in the deep woods. I had this idea that trees + shade = cool. Not exactly! Those trees act as a windbreak, and it can be so hot and still the sweat just pours.

      I found some of these at the Watson Rare Native Plant preserve in Warren. I’m not publicly mentioning the other colony, just because. There are orchid collectors in this world, and you never know. But they were in the Piney Woods/Tyler County. I’ve got the next post up now, with some really nice photos.

  7. I looked at it and immediately thought of Larkspur, Linda. A small version grows on our property but there are some giants growing in the Sierras. I looked closer, plus you had already said it belonged to the orchid family. Beautiful flower. I rolled out at 4:30 this morning. Also, Peggy and I are going to be rolling through your neck of the woods around July 7th or 8th or 9th. Any chance for lunch? –Curt

    1. I’ve found larkspur in the piney woods: both blue and white. Until I started doing some exploring, I didn’t realize how many flowers have that spur-like appendance. Columbines are another. It’s fascinating the way the flowers and pollinators have evolved together to keep all the species rolling along.

      That week sounds great, Curt. I’m flexible. Just let me know when you and Peggy will be showing up, and we’ll make it work.

    1. Of course, exercising discipline on behalf of a little floral excursion is one thing. We’ll see how that self-discipline thing goes tomorrow at work, when the heat advisory temps of 107-111F kick in. My cacti ought to be happy.

    1. It certainly did. Usually it’s whispering things like “go get ice cream.” Being beckoned to a flower’s much healthier. Besides, there aren’t any places to get good ice cream at four in the morning!

    1. Guess what? This orchid creeps up into your area, although I suspect your chances of seeing one on an afternoon walk would be iffy-to-none. It’s in the southeast where they really thrive: Florida, South Carolina, and the Gulf coast. I’m very tempted to return this coming weekend. If all that were in bud were open, it might be quite a sight. Our local flowers are beautiful right now, but this is a special show.

  8. Beautiful orchid and photo. We always look at great photos and think “Why can’t I get those shots?” but forget that the photographer got up at 4 AM and may have waited all day for the perfect light on the perfect scene.

    I’m a morning person, but that means dawn or thereabouts with the help of whatever cat or dog that is my alarm clock at that time of my life. It’s hard to pull myself out of bed earlier, but when I do I love the feel of the predawn air and watching the world wake up. Glad you got up for the orchid and whatever else you may have found.

    1. That business of waiting (and waiting…and waiting…) is especially evident with the wildlife photographers. Most don’t say much about it, but one who lives in Alberta, Canada, spoke once about the six hours he spent in snow and cold, waiting for the snowy owls to fly. He was successful, but that kind of dedication certainly puts an early rise to shame.

      Like you, I enjoy watching the world wake up — and hearing it, too. Like squirrels, the birds seem to have their preferences. My cardinals sing first, with the wrens a close second, but those slug-a-bed squirrels never show up until the sun’s broken the horizon.

    1. Thank you, Pete. While this orchid is common enough in places, we’re at the far western edge of its range, so sightings are uncommon in this state. Finding it certainly was a pleasure for white flower-loving me!

    1. Of course the best part of the tiny tale is that I had no idea it would be blooming. It’s just another bit of proof for my theory that on any given day, there’s going to be something wonderful to see, even if we don’t know what it is!

      1. Just part of the wonders of nature! And it’s nice to have such a reward for getting up early.

  9. What a magnificent flower! And to think~I’m awfully proud of myself if I’m up and functional at 7!

    1. Up is one thing. Functional’s quite another. That’s why I always allow time for coffee and breakfast before hitting the road. When I do manage to be up and about early, I always think of it as “doing a Gingold.” How Steve manages to be out and about every morning astonishes me — especially now that sunrise comes so very early.

      Still, there was that flower. Sometimes self-congratulations are in order.

      1. Oh absolutely! I think of Steve G. too. For that matter I believe Steve S. is generally up and functional at an indecently early hour as well. They get good light at that hour too, something I chide myself over when I’m out much later in the morning. Sometimes.

    1. There are a couple more orchids in the same area yet to bloom. One, the Chapman’s fringed orchid, is bright orange, and the cranefly, much more subdued, does look a bit like the insect. It was such a surprise to learn that we have native orchids, and so many of them.

    1. While this one’s not common in Florida, it’s certainly found more frequently than it is here in Texas. This page has some details, and a map of where it’s been found. I hadn’t come across the name ‘bog torch’ for the plant, but it certainly fits. Next up on the calendar for our terrestrial orchids is the Chapman’s fringed. It’s somewhat similar in structure, but bright orange.

    1. While I’d thought about these orchids in passing, I tend not to pay as much attention as perhaps I should to postings of sightings on places like iNaturalist, so I had no idea they were in bloom. The upside of that is the pleasure of pure surprise. Sometimes, browsing beats searching, hands down!

  10. I know that “let me just roll over and give it another few minutes” feeling that, if followed, turns into an hour. What once was waking at 4 has now turned to three which is even harder for me. Thankfully, I’ve got a hungry Bentley to make sure I get up. I am glad you didn’t succumb to the temptation and visited this lovely Platanthera. We have one at a bog here I am thinking of visiting soon although too early for that to be flowering yet. Add this to your collection of lovely white flowers. It’s beaut…as is your picture.

    1. Our nautical twilight’s about 5:15 now, but obviously yours is even earlier. Apart from its other pleasures, October’s sunrise time is a little more tolerable. The next orchid beauty I know about will arrive in July or so, and it’s a member of this genus, too. I’m surprised how widespread the species are; I’m glad you have one. It’ll be fun to see, and compare.

        1. It’s the pitcher plant that really caught my eye this time around. I spent a lot of time trying to photograph one last weekend, and failed to satisfy myself. It was high noon, the plants weren’t nearly as tall as yours, and at the end of the season, they were pretty ragged. Even minus a camera, it was hard to see the fruit inside. I might give it one more try this weekend, at another location.

          1. I mentioned in the other post about looking for pitcher plants this weekend. Not sure if I can do any better than the ones I have already shared but I’ll give it a try. Always enjoyable to see them and who knows what else will be there. I hope you find some more satisfying opportunities in more favorable light.

            1. The best news I’ve heard is that we may have some clouds and rain chances this coming weekend. I could stand that for myself as well as for photo-taking. I flat wore myself out in last weekend’s heat, mostly because once I’ve driven two hours or more to be in a spot, I don’t want to spend only a couple of hours. If I were comfortable leaving home at 4 a.m. it would be better, but I don’t like driving in the dark — especially at a time when the roads are full of weekend fishermen heading for the water at 80 mph, and the last of the drunks trying to find their way home.

            2. I hope you do receive rain and that once done there it comes here. We are in drought mode right now too.

              Here we are starting to see the light of day around 4…dim, but light enough to see where you are going. The fishing gates at the reservoir open at 5 so I do share the road with fishermen and women(I was going to say fisherpersons PC fashion to make you smile, maybe my aside did that) but I’ve seen them being sensible in their driving. I don’t know if I encounter any drunks but if I don’t they are holding steady. My biggest concern is a reckless moose crossing the road out of nowhere. They are more active at night than the daytime, especially in the summer heat.

            3. Ha! great minds and all that. I was thinking, “As long as you don’t come across any drunk mooses on their way to go fishing, it’ll all be good.”

            4. I like your way of thinking, Linda. I wonder if they ever accidentally eat a fish while scraping the bottom of a pond for water lily rhizomes.

              I saw an article the other day about a feral wild pig that had eaten a bunch of cocaine and the remarks about a coked up wild boar were hysterical albeit the image scary too. I imagine the same could be said for a badger or wolverine.

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