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Old 03-02-2014, 07:25 AM
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Tipularia discolor - a very common orchid!

I really gained an appreciation for how common the cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) can be, after first noticing the blooms in the very wet summer of 2013 here in Athens, GA. The flower spikes are often a foot or two tall, and the flowers are a half inch across, but the colors are tans and browns, making the spikes hard to see. Here is a Tipularia discolor blooming in my back yard, August 2013:

20130811_103954 600x800.jpg

Closer view of the same spike:

20130811_103954 480x637.jpg

My macrophotography skills aren't great, so here is a link to a USDA site with better close-ups of the flowers:

Plants Profile for Tipularia discolor (crippled cranefly)

The leaves fade away in late spring and are not visible when the plant is in spike (see first photo, above). Instead, the leaves are out during the late fall, winter and early spring. The leaves have a "puckered" appearance, which some have compared to seersucker. Here is a photo taken this winter in a nearby park:

IMG_20131229_145608_387 T. discolor 640x480.jpg

The species name, discolor, refers to the fact that the leaves are typically one color (dark green) on top, but bright purple underneath. Another photo I took this winter:

IMG_20131229_145628_830 T discolor 640x480.jpg

This makes it easy to spot this plant in the fall, winter, and spring. There is a less common, natural variety (T. discolor forma viridifolia) that is green on both sides of the leaf. I see this around Athens, GA as well.

Now that I know what to look for, I commonly see the leaves in virtually every upland woods in my city. If I had to guess, there must be over a million of these in my city/county alone. Reportedly, in the United States, T. discolor ranges from Florida to Texas and north to Michigan, New York and Massachusetts. Maybe not as common as dandelions, but close!
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Old 03-02-2014, 08:14 AM
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We have those up here too. None in my backyard though.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-02-2014, 02:48 PM
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Very neat. These are not something I have ever seen but they are very pretty.
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