Thursday, July 13, 2017

Desirable weeds?

Epipactis helleborine

I remember first finding these in a meadow near Middlebury Vermont in 1973: I knew right away they were orchids, but couldn't imagine what Eastern species it could be...I discovered soon that they were the first Eurasian orchid to naturalize widely in the East. Fast forward a few decades later, and I saw some on the Hill in Boulder where I grew up--they'd managed to find their way to Colorado. Suddenly this year they appeared dotted across several score of feet in the El Pomar Waterway garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. I suppose if one is to have a weed, an orchid is a better case scenario. It doesn't really interfere with anything in this garden, and they are quite beautiful--if not the most colorful shades! I believe the horticulture staff may let them be...I'm posting a number of pictures so you can see the variety of form they take on...

Aha! Not at the Botanic Gardens now: this is Rod Haenni and Ann Priestman's wonderful garden in Bow Mar--and sure enough they had a rash of these appear (all but one of which Rod mowed down). He couldn't resist leaving one clump!

His is distinctly greener than the ones at Denver Botanic Gardens...

This is a different sort of weed: five or six years ago I spied Epipactis gigantea (our rare native cousin to the weed)  growing in some raised beds at the Grand Junction Orchard Mesa gardens. I asked them about the orchids and they said they'd appeared spontaneously! One whole bed was almost filled with them and they were weeding them out! I helped and weeded a few out--some of which were sold at Denver Botanic Gardens plant sales!

Here is a large mat of the Colorado Epipactis growing at Copenhagen Botanic Garden...

It certainly deserves the common name "chatterbox orchid"!

They also had large masses of Epipactis palustris, a European species that spreads rhizomatously but has not been weedy by seed (yet anyway). There are species in east Asia as well--a very interesting genus, I think. It would be fun to grow the less weedy species in a garden. And I know there are mail order nurseries that sell them. But you may get Epipactis helleborine soon in your own garden--even without trying!

1 comment:

  1. I had to laugh thinking of the efforts we go to, to grow orchids. I am going to give up and wait for these guys to find me!


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