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Helping an Endangered Orchid

When I worked for state parks in New York on Long Island, one of my responsibilities was to monitor the populations of rare plants. I do not recall what year it was, but it was in the 1990’s when we had a very dry summer. In July of that year, I happened across the crested yellow orchid growing in a location I had not seen in this place before along the edge of a fire road that cut through a wetlands area and crossed the Connetquot River.

This one orchid was suffering from the lack of rainfall. Its cluster of flower buds drooped over. I felt bad for the plant so I grabbed a bucket from the back of my jeep walked about 600 feet to the river, dunked the bucket into the water and carried back to the plant where I poured the water on it. Later that day, I returned to the plant to see how it was faring and it looked much better. Its leaves and flower cluster was no longer drooped. It regained strength with that bucket of water.

In the days that followed, I returned to the orchid, walked down to the river and carried back a bucket of water and poured it on the plant. In a few days it blossomed and looked like a normal yellow crested orchid.

Eventually, the rains came and the plant flowered, produced seeds and withered away until the next summer where I looked for it and to my delight, found it and a couple of other crested orchids growing around it.

This orchid grows in the eastern U.S. in moist open woodlands, fens and bogs. It is endangered in New York and Massachusetts and threatened in several other states.

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