It is a beautiful plant. At least seeing it again brought back happy memories. I remembered a lovely flower ... vaguely.
For some reason my mind insisted it was a lily or close to it. Not lilies like the tiger lilies that are now opening everywhere. Not that I have anything against them I've planted and am absolutely delighted to see them return annually. (Not everything that I think should return actually will.)
This, if it truly be a lily, is more delicate purple perhaps, I think. A very light shade of violet but purple.
About then I start thinking I am confusing this wildflower with the orchid plant that looks very sad indeed though I'm told, given enough time and enough patience on my part, it'll sprout up again to do its thing, delighting me all over again.
No, this isn't like that.
The leaves are definitely alternate, entire, strongly striped in a slightly darker shade of green, and clasp the stem to the point of totally encircling it. One flower only begins to appear at the stem's top, bending downward and seeming to have a great many pointed petals which, on the premature plant, remain green.
Ha! But I have been misled for each of those "petals" - and there will be many more as the plant continues to mature - is due to become an entire flower.
Lovely indeed in shades of light purple, I am proud to see the Helleborine is labeled as part of the "orchis" family. If it doesn't mean orchid, it should.
Newcomb says they're found in woods and thickets. Sorry, mine inevitably appear in the driveway or the stony path where I find it a major chore to uproot each one.
Checking out a lot of orchises (orchi? orches?) in the same book, I definitely see the family resemblance multiple irregular flowers on a single stem with the same grabby alternate leaves. Indeed, "orchis" is the genus and it definitely means orchid. So how come I'd know this? (And why should I when I can't remember my own telephone number? I may not need to know the latter very often but it's certainly more frequently than having to remember the genus of an orchid.) Peterson writes "alien" after its name while Audubon doesn't mention it at all.
It's a pity because it is tall and really quite stunning.
Like most wildflowers it does also have its bad side. It is a weed. It grows where it wants to and is very hard to pull for obviously the roots get down long before the plant reaches even a quarter of its eventual 2 feet. Worse, they seem to like it here for I am finding many more this year than last.
At first I treasured the little beauties, even trying to keep visiting cars from driving over those that wanted to grow in the driveway. Now I suspect, in a competition, that little plant would outlast a car. Now they're even in my myrtle which I had thought so thick that any plant would feel discouraged from trying to set up home there.
I fear any I fail to find in time will seed a great many offspring by next year. I just hope to limit them to one corner of the house. And maybe a couple can stay at least until they flower for they are attractive.
Then I'll get 'em!
Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. "Her Reason for Being" was published in 2008 with "Love in Three Acts" due this month. Information on all the Musings, the books and the author can be found at Susancrossett.com.