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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Exploring Boston: Fells wildflowers

The long-delayed Spring has finally hit its stride in Boston; wildflowers are abundant.

Sunday was a gorgeous day, so I trekked around Long Pond in the Middlesex Fells, along much the same route I took on a winter hike there ( http://fredlanga.blogspot.com/2014/01/exploing-boston-middlesex-fells.html )

I was there mostly to see the Lady Slippers, a somewhat rare orchid; abundant only in very specific locations:Cypripedium reginae.

Here's one from yesterday, up close:

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It's rare because of its exacting habitat requirements, including moist, acidic, calcium-rich soil; with partial/filtered sun.

The plants are nototiously hard to manually propagate. On their own, they mostly reproduce vegetatively, via root offshoots: That's why the plants often appear in clumps or groups.

They also produce seeds, but slowly, and via a weird process:

First, they require stupid bees. Lady Slippers have no nectar, but they produce a nectar-like scent. Bees --- fooled by the scent --- enter the pouch easily, but then are semi-trapped, and have to force their way past the pollen-bearing parts of the plant. The same bee then has to be fooled again (Do'h) into entering another nectar-less Lady Slipper, to deliver the pollen.

The seeds, once they form, contain no food for the embryonic plant. Instead, the seeds have to fall on soil that contains a very specific symbiotic fungus that cracks the seed pod and passes nutrients to the growing plant; later, when the plant matures, it returns nutrients to the fungus. (More info: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/cypripedium_acaule.shtml)

All that complexity is why Lady Slippers don't reproduce often in the wild. One estimate says that once in 10 years is about right. The plants live about 20 years.

So, it's a pleasure to see them where they're locally abundant.

Long Pond in early Spring:
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Typical twinned cluster, probably by vegetative reproduction rather than by seed:
 photo P5180019_zps6e0db2cb.jpg

Even rarer White Lady Slippers:
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Cluster with other, small white wild flowers:
 photo P5180011_zps5c7362ab.jpg

The hardwood bushes were in bloom, too:
 photo P5180003_zpsacc88680.jpg


We saw perhaps 50 Lady Slippers in all; a very pleasant outing.