Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wild thing, you make my heart sing

The other-worldly Indian Pipe
 
One amazing thing about living in the mountains is that just about every time I walk out the door I see something new and different.

After missing a number of cool photo ops because I don’t like to drag my heavy Nikon around, I invested in a small pocket camera I carry with me all the time. It’s the best $99 I’ve ever spent.

The other day I was out walking when I spied a most unusual plant growing underneath a fern. From afar it looked like a skeleton’s bony fingers. I incorrectly assumed it was a fungus.

Some stems have a pinkish hue
After consulting my trusty wildflower book I learned this unearthly looking specimen is called Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora.) Unlike most plants it doesn’t have chlorophyll so the stems and “flowers” are white and waxy.

Small wonder it is also referred to as the corpse or ghost plant.

Experts reckon the plant evolved during the Jurassic period at the peak of the dinosaur era.

Although I’d never seen one in all my years visiting the mountains, this relative of the Rhododendron can be found throughout the country with the exception of the desert southwest. (However the US Forest Service says it is not commonly encountered.)

Indian Pipe provides food for small bumblebees and food for thought for those of us who stumble across the mysterious plant for the first time.

Emily Dickinson, called the Indian Pipe “the preferred flower of life” and used an illustration of it on the cover of her book Poems.

North Carolina mountain folklore tells us Cherokee Indians believed that plants appeared where the ashes from peace pipes had been scattered.

Another legend says Indian Pipe emerges in woodland locales where relatives have quarreled without resolution.

I’d love to know what happened on the site where I found this perennial wildflower.

Lilies and Orchids…

The Carolina Lily
Further down the road I saw what looked like a Turk’s-Cap Lily growing all by itself in a wooded grove. 

Once again my research showed it was actually the Carolina Lily, also known as Michaux’s Lily, named after the French Botanist who made many expeditions to the mountains and discovered the Catawba rhododendron.

Carolina Lilies are much smaller than the Turk’s-Caps and produce fewer flowers –sometimes only one or two.

It isn't a plantain at all but a wild orchid
Heading home I noticed the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain I pass each day had thrown out spikes of tiny white flowers.  Some say the striking plant got its name because the spike looks like a rattler’s tail. Others say the silvery markings on its leaves resemble snakeskin.

No matter how it got its name, this member of the orchid family is easy to spot because of its distinctive leaves -- each one can live as long as four years. The flowers supposedly look like tiny orchids but I’d need a magnifying glass to prove it.


 Perhaps because of the unusual markings, early medical practitioners and Native Americans used the leaves and roots to treat snakebites. Native women thought rubbing the leaves on their skin made them more beautiful (in the interest of science I must give this a try.)

… and Bears (oh my!)

After a long day of finding, photographing and researching local wildflowers, I like to sit on my deck with a large glass of shiraz and listen to some of my favorite tunes.

Recently, just before pouring my adult beverage, I heard something strange going on outside and saw the head of a black bear appear just over the deck railing.

Junior had climbed up over 30 feet to see what hors d’oeuvres were being served. He placed his order for bird seed and I gladly let him pull the finch feeder out of the wall and take it away.

Sometimes the things I see in the mountains make my heart sing.

Other times, they make my heart stop.









20 comments :

Gaia Gardener: said...

The Downy Rattlesnake Plantain is striking! I especially love the pattern on the leaves and would happily plant it just for that.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Lynn, what a great find with the Indian Pipe!! Love that second photo of it especially. I love having a little camera to put in my pocket and make sure to use it often. Now I need to get back to the 'good' camera....have forgotten a lot about the features.
I love reading folklore from these great finds in our woods. Peace pipe ashes scattered, just lovely.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Gaia Gardener, so glad you enjoyed seeing the Rattlesnake Plantain. It is gorgeous although when walking past it can be easy to miss, especially when the leaves start falling. I plan to take a closer look at those flowers with a magnifying glass!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Janet, so glad you enjoyed the posting and the folklore. One day I must do a posting on mountain lore I've learned here about everything from weather to stopping bleeding (with spider webs!) As for the cameras, sad to say my "good' one has been gathering dust!

Rose said...

What a great photo of your visitor, Lynn; I think I would have been too startled to even think of grabbing a camera.

I've heard of Indian pipe before, but I've never seen them. How cool that Emily Dickinson used it to illustrate her poems.

Such an interesting post...now I'm going to be humming "Wild Thing.." all day:)

The Dirt Diaries said...

Thanks so much Rosalie! At first after seeing the bear I was afraid to open the door, but got my courage up thinking it might be my only chance to take such a shot. We will sing a duet of Wild Thing from afar!

Teresa said...

OMG Look at that bear! My heart would stop but he is a beauty! Love the wild orchids. Great idea to get an easy-to-use camera. I take almost all my pictures with my iPhone. Gotta be ready at any moment! Great post!

Jason said...

This puts a new spin on the phrase "wildlife-friendly gardening." Maybe the bear just wanted a glass of shiraz?

The Dirt Diaries said...

Teresa I just got an iPhone but haven't taken any pictures yet. The quality should be better than my 3G (horrible!) Thanks for your kind words!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Ha ha, Jason! Yogi can have my bird food but not my wine!!

The Principal Undergardener said...

Perhaps the best title for a 'Dirt Diary' post ever! Funny, informative and superbly written. Bravo!

The Dirt Diaries said...

Neal, you've made my day and week -- and made the time putting the posting together worth every minute. Many, many thanks.

Sunil said...

That picture of the young black bear is so cute. At least here I'm confident I can scare off the squirrels from snacking on the bird feeders, I'm not so sure when it comes to bears. Squirrels don't tend to make off with the entire feeder either.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Hi Sunil! He didn't look so cute when he was tearing the finch feeder out of the post with his teeth! And the squirrels here can be very naughty -- they try to get into the hummingbird feeders to drink the sugar water, then throw the feeder down the mountain. Good to hear from you!

Les said...

What a brazen little bear. I hope he keeps a further distance from you in the future.

The Dirt Diaries said...

Me too, Les. He was about five feet tall when he stood up. It was fun (and scary) to see him but once is enough. My photo isn't one of my best because my hands were shaking!

Karen said...

Thanks Lyn i really enjoyed that mountain holiday, i'll be back for more. Karen

The Dirt Diaries said...

Thanks Karen! Just close your eyes and visit anytime you like. I also love seeing the beautiful flowers Down Under through A Gardener's Life! I have just been to the Camellia Garden and enjoyed seeing the sky through eucalyptus branches. I'll be back soon!

iPhone 4s Cases said...

Every picture on your blog is like a chocolate sundae for my eyes.

The Dirt Diaries said...

You have made my day iPhone 4s Cases! Creating the blog can be hard work (and sometimes frustrating trying to place the photos where I want) but comments like yours lift my spirits!!

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