by Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
During one of my early morning walks in the garden I noticed this clump of thin stalks growing at the base of a pine tree. How exciting, looks like and orchid! Could it be? After all, Texas native orchids can be found in the Pineywoods, and Navasota even has one that is on the endangered species list.
Alas, not so. It is the Chinese Crown Orchid, Eulophia graminea, considered an invasive species in Florida. Eradication appears to be difficult and only hand removal of the pseudobulbs and flowers before they set dust-like seeds appear to be effective.
Texas has at least fifty-nine species and varieties of orchids, of which the Spiranthes, Calopogon, Corallorhiza, Cypripedium, and Tipularia genus appear in the Pineywoods. All the orchids in Texas are terrestrial and grow with roots in the ground as opposed to epiphytes which grow on a tree or plant and take their nutrients and water from rain and air.
Thirteen out of twenty-four species of Spiranthes in the United States and Canada, Lady’s Tresses, can be found in Texas. These are easily identified by the twisting or spiraling stems with spikes of ivory yellow flowers. Some bloom late February through April while others such as the Vanilla Orchid, S. odorata, bloom October through November on 3 feet tall spikes.
Spiranthes parksii, Navasota Ladies Tresses, which is on the endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has an inflorescence with small fragrant white flowers that can reach at least two feet.
There are two Calopogon species found in Texas. These go by the common names of grass pinks; Oklahoma Grass Pink, Calopogon oklahomensis and Common Grass Pink, Galopogon tuberoses. They thrive in wetlands and moist post oak woodlands. They have beautiful pink flowers with a tufted beard.
Corallorhiza has four species growing in Texas. They are commonly called coral root for their underground rhizome which resembles a piece of coral. Corallorhiza wisteriana can be found in the Pineywoods and Edwards Plateau. Two of the other three species occur in the West and C. odontorhiza in the northern Pineywoods.
Of the forty-five species of Cypripedium or Lady Slippers only two can be found in Texas. The Ivory-lipped lady’s slipper, Cypripedium kentuckiense, is quite rare and can be found in the eastern section of the Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah. Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens, Large Yellow Lady’s Slipper should be seen in northestern Texas although the last prublished record was in 1929..
There is only one species of Tipularia, Crane-Fly Orchid, in Texas. T. discolor can be found in the woodlands of Pineywoods blooming June through August on a 1-2 ft stalk with tiny white greenish flowers.
For more information on Wild Orchids in Texas:
Field Guide to the Wild Orchids of Texas, Paul Martin Brown, 2008 the University Press of Florida
Wild Orchids of Texas, Joe Liggio and Ann Orto Liggio, 1999 University of Texas Press