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Joy Of The Orchid Hunter

There is something thrilling in the discovery of any one of that distinctive group of wild flowers, the orchids. One associates them with certain redletter days spent in quest of oddities in wild life that lurk in the sphagnum bogs. The ragged-fringed orchid, Habenaria lacera, is one of the flowers which the inquisitive botanist is likely to search out in those remote mountain swales, where the chippering yet fascinating song of the Nashville warbler greets him amid the stands of yellow birch, aspen, and tamarack trees. I shall not soon forget my first sight of this flower.

There is something thrilling in the discovery of any one of that distinctive group of wild flowers, the orchids. One associates them with certain redletter days spent in quest of oddities in wild life that lurk in the sphagnum bogs. The ragged-fringed orchid, Habenaria lacera, is one of the flowers which the inquisitive botanist is likely to search out in those remote mountain swales, where the chippering yet fascinating song of the Nashville warbler greets him amid the stands of yellow birch, aspen, and tamarack trees. I shall not soon forget my first sight of this flower.

It was a brilliant day early in July, and I had gone into the glade country high up in the Alleghany Mountains of western Maryland. That area is somewhat segregated from the lowlands, which spread out for miles beyond its fertile valleys, and it presents to the naturalist a world of wonders in certain more northern or Canadian forms of life. As I roamed among the gaunt trees, with eyes centered on certain sphagnum hummocks where I hoped to ferret out the secluded nest of mother Nashville warbler, I came face to face with a little colony of ragged-fringed orchids. To be sure, they were quite still and unobtrusive there in the wild bog, but nevertheless they presented a most thrilling spectacle.

Their sparse roots seemed to penetrate the sour moss and send upward the dark green spikes whereon a host of peculiar blossoms spread wide their tattered and sallow lips. Thereafter the ragged-fringed orchid became my guide, philosopher and friend, and once in the tamarack bogs of northwestern Pennsylvania, it led me to penetrate deep into a swampy covert where few if any human feet had ever trod before, just to renew the acquaintanceship so pleasantly begun. This shy orchid delights in more or less shady nooks, where now and then the sunbeams glance amid the fringy sprays of the larch and the birch to add spangles of golden light to its fair delicacy.

Other orchids besides this one also await the orchid-lover in similar spots. That pink beauty, the Arethusa, has now quite vanished from the swamps that grace the landscape of my native village, and yet if I journey a long way from home, and penetrate the spruce belt in the higher, rarer atmosphere of the Alleghanies, then once in a long while, I find it—the prize among floral beauties.

The orchid hunter, it might be added, does not fancy that mode of botanical research that prizes a rare plant merely for the sake of a pressed specimen. Rather, he looks hastily at the rarity, and leaves it untouched, taking as his reward only an impression that brings happy reminiscences in the dreary days of winter when he lies ensconced in his den, dreaming over the glad hours that wereFree Articles, and that he hopes will be again.


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