They really can. I will site two examples.
Earlier this year, I spotted a Cranefly Orchid leaf in a new location. It’s over near the end of the boardwalk. I thought it looked like it had potential to bloom, so for the past few weeks I’ve been checking on it periodically. Now, you need to know that this orchid sends it’s leaf up in the fall and persists all winter and into early spring until the trees leaf out. This is so the plant can more efficiently capture that all important sunlight energy. So by the time the plant might bloom, the leaf is long gone, and lots of other plants can have grown up near by. This is also a very small orchid. The flower stalk itself can be several inches tall, but the actual flowers are quite small and not brightly colored. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful plant, but not terribly showy. Okay, now it’s time for the plant to be in bloom (if it’s going to bloom, as they are not all the reliable) and I’ve already located other Cranefly Orchids that have sent up flower stalks. I just know in my gut that there is a flower stalk at this new spot. But I can’t find it!! So frustrating! I’m looking at all these different angles, and I even stoop down and right in front of my face is the dried up seed pods from one that bloomed last year! Arrrhhhggg! Finally, after feeling so stupid I spot the orchid. Ha! I knew it would be there. Then I felt incredible triumphant, like I had outwitted the orchid. I know that makes me a huge dork, but I don’t care!
Example number two: We have a list of all the plant species (and some of the animals) that have been identified here. We reference it when we think we may have found something new or perhaps a new location (some of the plants have general descriptions as to where they’ve been found). In our list of orchids there are 10 species. As you may know from last year, some of them aren’t seen all the time. (see this post near the end http://www.wahkeena-preserve.blogspot.com/2011/07/procrastination-is-my-middle-name.html ) One additional orchid that Tom has never seen in his over 30 years here is Green Wood Orchis Platanthera clavellata. Thanks to two guys named Tim this year, we have located it! We have found over a dozen plants so far, and several are in bloom. We’ve even spotted a flower stalk from last year, which just really gets to you. It’s right by the trail where we would have had plenty of opportunities to see it. So these orchids have evaded our eyes for a long, long time! I just know they were laughing at us! 🙂
With the rediscovery of this orchid and our early summer causing some plants to bloom early, you should be able to see 3 different species of orchids in bloom for the next week and some. They are: Downy Rattlesnake Plantain, Green Wood Orchis, and Cranefly Orchid. Now the Cranefly is not actually in bloom yet, but it is up and on its way. So if you are planning your visit this weekend, just the other two will be in bloom. I would expect by next weekend you will be able to see all three.