It is that time of year where I am seeing people posting pictures of the fall orchids around the state. From now through parts of October there is a small chance you could run into a few different species.
The orange fringed orchid, pictured here, has been in full bloom the past week or so in Northern Illinois. This plant is endangered in Illinois, as it only occurs in a couple counties which makes each sighting special.
Also, in bloom currently in the state is the rattlesnake plantain orchid. This plant is more common than the previous species, as it occurs throughout the state but still is pretty picky where it grows. We have some populations of it in our area, but I believe it to be more abundant further downstate.
Lastly, we have the spiranthes orchids. These small, slender, white orchids can be common even in disturbed prairies. In one of the restorations I work at they come up right along an old gravel road.
According to INaturalist, in Illinois we have at least seven different spiranthes orchid species with the most common being the nodding ladies’ tresses (spiranthes cernua). When you find one of these, be sure to take the time and smell them as certain species have a pleasant vanilla odor.
There are over 30 species of orchids growing around Illinois each year. If you would like to read more about our native orchids, I highly recommend the “Orchids of Indiana” by Michael Homoya. Filled with keys for identification, pictures, habitat and general discussion, you can’t go wrong with this resource.