Flash!! Was That a Sun Beam?

The Yellow (Orange?) Fringed Orchid! Please say “Good Morning!”

While unsuccessfully searching for the Monkey Faced Orchid (White Unfringed Orchid) in North Georgia, I stumbled upon a unique, relatively common, orchid that was so compelling, so vibrant that I had to complete the research on it and discover everything there was to know about Platanthera ciliaris. First, how I did I go by entire wildflower hunting life and never cross paths with this amazing orchid? Probably, because I don’t venture into bogs, open swamps, and other alligator-like infested environs. The species is widespread and can be found (with rubber boots) in seeps and upwelling water in almost every eastern and southeastern state. It actually prefers wet areas that dry up in late summer and regenerates after a grass fire. It is tall and the blossoms hover at the top of a 2-3 foot stalk as is typical of the other native orchids we have visited.

Yellow or Orange? Either choice – it is a fascinating wildflower!

Each blossom is rather large by orchid standards being an inch and a half long and a half-inch wide with telltale fringes on the labellum or insect landing strip. When conditions are right, it will bloom all summer with extended seasons further south. Some blossoms are yellow but most are orange and the flowering arrangement is a raceme – a fancy word for a blooming cluster at the top of the stem with each blossom on stems the same size.

What do you see? A bearded monkey? A unique native orchid? Whatever you see, you will never forget.

You can actually grow the Yellow Fringe in your garden if you have a wet spot. Choose a planting site with very high moisture content and light shade or mostly sun. Yellow fringed orchid does very well in water gardens or bogs. Test the soil and make sure it is highly acidic. The perennial requires a pH level between 5.1 to 6.0. Plant the perennial in the garden or in a pot. Rake the soil to remove any debris, then place the plant in the ground so the root ball is even to the soil surface. Cover with soil and compost. Use a combination of 50-percent leaf litter, 25-percent perlite and charcoal, and 25-percent peat when planting yellow fringed orchid in a pot. Water your plant well when it’s blooming and growing. Less water is needed during inactive months.

And the pollinator is???

In Georgia, the Yellow Fringed Orchid can be found throughout the state wherever there is upwelling water near a woodsy environment. The Okefenokee Swamp in Southeast Georgia comes to mind quickly, but there are several bogs in North Bartow County where I live and I will check them out this coming summer.

Perhaps I will put off a wildflower hunt in the Okefenokee to another summer.
The yellow Fringe in its natural environment.
In case you were wondering – yes, there is a Purple Fringed Orchid that grows at higher elevations and a little further north.
One last look at the Yellow or Orange Fringed Orchid. What can I say? The world of wildflowers is overwhelming.

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