Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grass-pink (Calopogon)

Grass Pink -- © Dave Spier

Grass-pink (Calopogon tuberosus) has a misleading name due to its single, grass-like leaf that arises near the base and partially sheathes the stem. It's actually a native eastern orchid with an upside-down flower. The yellow-crested lip (called the Labellum) is uppermost. The University of Wisconsin provides an interesting description of how this works to achieve pollination. "The brush of hairs on the lip apparently serves as a "pseudopollen" lure, attracting naive, recently emerged bumblebees. The bees, expecting a reward of nectar and/or pollen, land on the hairs. At this point, the hinged labellum swings down under the weight of the bee and positions the bee on the column, where pollen can be placed on its back. If the bee already carries a load of pollen, it will contact the stigma and thus pollinate the plant. (Thien & Marcks, 1972)"

Calopogon is found in wet, acidic bogs, peat meadows and swamps from Minnesota to Newfoundland and south to the Gulf coast. (There's a range map on the USDA Plants Database, under Calopogon tuberosus.) It does occur locally, but since New York lists it as "exploitably vulnerable," I'll leave it at that.

The genera name is a contraction of the Greek "kalos" and "pogon" meaning "beautiful beard." The specific name is Latin for "tuberous," referring to the tuberous corm growing in the substrate (typically Sphagnum moss). Most older field guides list this species as Calopogon pulchellus, now considered a synonym for this species.

Michael Kudish, in his book Adirondack Upland Flora (1992), gives the flowering date as beginning July 1 with median date July 13 (subject to global warming and annual climate fluctuation) within a 30-mile radius of Paul Smiths.

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