Tipularia discolor, known commonly as the Cranefly Orchid, is vegetatively active during two different seasons of the year in the hardwood forests that it calls home. While most terrestrial orchids (of which T. discolor is one) hibernate during the winter and grow and flower during the warmer months of the year, this summer-flowering orchid produces its frost-and-freeze-resistant leaves during the fall, winter, and early spring, in habitats ranging from central Florida into southern Ohio. In fact, it is during the leafing stage of this orchid that it is most easily found, their solitary green leaves, deep purple underneath and often spotted with purple on top, are one of the few things green at all during the winter months. One will often encounter fairly sizable clumps of plants during this time of year.
In spring, the leaves fade as the trees overhead begin to leaf out again and diminish the light reaching the forest floor. If the plant has stored enough nutrients in its chain of underground corms, it may decide to flower in summer (typically around July-August). The flowering stems blend very well with their surrounding environment, so they are quite difficult to spot, even when in full flower. Curiously, only about ten percent of the plants seen in winter time will flower in the summer. They obviously seem to have very fertile seed, considering the size of the colonies typically seen in winter.
Their flowers are curiously asymmetrical, with the dorsal sepal and lip skewed to one side of the central axis, and one of the lateral petals typically twisted down to overlap its corresponding lateral sepal. The spur extending from the back of the lip is filled with nectar. Research done on the pollinators (W. P. Stoutamire 1978) of this orchid indicates that these flowers are pollinated by noctuid moths. I have observed a faint, sweet night fragrance in the flowers, which is consistent with this research. To find out some more interesting facts about this flower's pollination scheme, visit the link below for my Tipularia discolor information page.
You can visit the Tipularia discolor page on the Florida Native Orchids site by clicking the following link:
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