© 2011 Patty Hanknis
The same day I photographed the Yellow Fringed Orchid – I also found a photographed a second native orchid – the Cranefly Orchid (tipularia discolor). Cranefly orchids are one of three members of the tiularia genus. The other two species are native to Japan and the Himalayas.
The Cranefly orchids are one of the most unusual native orchids I’ve ever seen. Its shades of green, purple and brown make it very hard to spot in the woods. What fascinated me about the orchid is the way the spurs of the flowers cross and created amazing patterns.
© 2011 Patty Hankins
Cranefly orchids emerge as a single green glossy leaf in the fall that last through the winter. In the spring, the leaves die back and a stem emerges that blooms in the summer. The purple stems grow up to 60 cm tall with greenish brown flowers. The flowers are about 1 cm across and tilt to one side or the other – which facilitates pollination by noctuids moths. The pollen attaches the moths eyes as it visits the plants.
Native to much of the Eastern and Southern United States, they are listed as threatened or endangered in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York. They prefer to grow in forests with moist soil.
More information about cranefly orchids can be found at