Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Wildlife Wildflower Walk
Midwest Region, May 2, 2009
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The last reported observation of a showy orchis in Boone County was from 1962. Here a cluster of four are in full bloom at Finger Lakes State Park Columbia, MO.
The last reported observation of a showy orchis in Boone County was from 1962. Here a cluster of four are in full bloom at Finger Lakes State Park Columbia, MO. - Photo Credit: n/a

It was a perfect morning for a walk – it was sunny, warm and the birds were singing. The group convened in the parking lot at Finger Lakes State Park, a change of venue due to flooding on the Missouri River. Because of the last minute change-of-plans, I no longer had a strategy or even an idea of what wildflowers we might find in a reclaimed strip mine area with heavy ATV use. We headed off down the road to an area near the picnic shelter where I noticed a few wildflowers blooming the day before.  I warned the class that I had no idea what to expect but that we would just go for a walk to see what we could find.  We started off talking about some of the invasive exotic species found along the roadways and edges of strip pits. As we eased into heavier shade, we saw some of the typical spring wildflowers like the sweet William phlox, violets and spring beauties.  After crawling over and under a guard rail and wading a small slough…we found treasure!  Jacob’s ladders created a blue carpet, Jack-in-the-pulpits stood proudly, ferns were lush with new growth, the dainty white flowers of goldenseal were shining, green dragons punctuated the floor and nestled in amongst all of this splendor were two species of orchids!  We found several plants of putty root orchid, a fairly common species of native orchid in Missouri but it wasn’t quite in bloom yet. The second species of orchid, the showy orchis, was in its full glory.  The small cluster of four plants were showing off their pink and white blooms and incredible scent. Suddenly all cameras were trained on this beauty! I couldn’t contain my excitement - much to the amusement of the class. On our way back to the parking lot, every participant in the class remarked that this had been their favorite class of weekend. Not only was I relieved to have found pretty wildflowers for the class to see, but I was thrilled about the number and variety of species we found.

The story doesn’t end there. Of all the reference books that I took along for the class to use or look at, I didn’t take the Orchids of Missouri (by Bill Summers). When I got home that afternoon, I went straight for my book and looked up the showy orchis. The map of documented locations did not include Boone county! Monday morning I went to tell Paul McKenzie, Ecological Services, about the orchids and other plants we found at Finger Lakes. When I mentioned the showy orchis not being documented in the county, he grabbed his book. He immediately began contacting people that would be interested in our new find.  After some research, it was determined that showy orchis had been historically documented in the county but not since 1962! This was a new record. Mike Currier, a Natural Resource Steward with Missouri Department of Natural Resources, met with me the next morning at the park.  I took him to the specimen, followed by many interested park staff. Mike took many pictures as opposed to of one of the plants for a voucher. We walked all over the adjacent woods looking for more plants, but to no avail. Turns out that our last minute change of plans for the WOW school turned out to be a stroke of luck!        

Contact Info: Patricia Herman, 573-234-2132 x170, Patricia_Herman@fws.gov
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