Ooo-la-la!! Look what I found! While searching for something else, I practically stumbled on this little pink firebomb up in the woods at Mountain Lake. On first glance, I thought it was “just Phlox”, which started to bloom in the woods near Blacksburg recently. Then I took a couple steps closer and nearly fell over with surprise!
This is the kind of flower that flower geeks dream about: rare, exotic-looking…gorgeous. Almost any of the orchids would fit that bill for me, but this one is actually endangered or threatened in several eastern states. This is a rare find.
Large Purple Fringed Orchid blooms in June and July at higher elevations in Southwest Virginia. It grows in forests and meadows, preferring moist areas with lots of light. I found these orchids growing along a wooded mountain trail, not far from a damp seep. Other habitats include riparian areas and moist roadside banks.
As you can see in the photo gallery, the leaves are lance-shaped and get smaller as you go up the stem. There are 2-6 leaves per plant. The flowers are light purple or rose-pink; the lower lip of the flower has 3 distinctive, fringed parts. There is a long, curved spur on the back of each flower. The plant grows from 1 to 2 ft. tall; some of the plants in this series were at least 2 ft. in height, which means they could be seen from a good distance away.