I was pleasantly surprised to spot a tall spike of white flowers in the forest above Mountain Lake Lodge yesterday. Even from the road I could tell it was something unusual. I was in search of another orchid (purple fringed orchid) that I had seen in that area in June a few years back, but lo and behold, I found something else instead! Something equally special.
Standing about 15-18 inches tall, Padleaf Rein Orchid gets its name from its two large, circular leaves that lay flat on the ground. The 4-inch wide leaves are dark green and a bit shiny—like lily pads!
In bloom, this orchid bears a single stalk (raceme) of 20-30 greenish-white flowers that grow in a cylindric fashion around the stem. Each flower has a long, club-shaped spur on the back and and an elongated lip in front. Some people say the flowers look like tiny dragonflies in flight. Would you agree?
Padleaf rein orchid can be found growing in deciduous and coniferous forests from South Carolina to Canada during the summer. It is also known as Round-leaved Orchis, Round-leaved Bog Orchid, Dinner-plate Orchid, and Habenaria orbiculata.
Looking back through old photos, I just realized that I ran into this plant another time (back in June 2015 in the Poverty Creek area of Montgomery County). That time, the plant was much less mature, so below are some photos of the developing inflorescence and some smaller leaves.