Walking back to the dorm at Native Plant Camp (commonly known as the Cullowhee Conference), my sharp-eyed friend spotted this barely visible growing thing on the steep bank beside the parking lot.
This was yesterday as the sun was going down and we still had miles to go before we slept in a manner of speaking, so I climbed up quickly in my botanizer’s flip-flops to see what it was. I snapped this photo as I was sliding back down. (Maybe I should rethink the flip-flops.) I wish now I had gotten a few more shots.
The plant is a native orchid, crested coralroot (Hexalectris spicata), which in North Carolina is considered significantly rare and imperiled.
Chlorophyll-free, crested coralroot gets its nutrition from mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Flowers appear between April and August. It is typically found in dry soils in the vicinity of oaks, junipers or pines.
You’d think you would have to go deep into the woods to see something like that, wouldn’t you? What a sweet find!