Friday, 29 July 2016

Perils of nature

An open-pit mine is the latest in unlikely locations to host a natural colony of wild orchids. But not for long ... Once again, orchids symbolise the transient nature of landscape change.

Privately-owned wetland Adirondack Park in upstate NY is a wetland is formed of coarse sand left over when granite ore was crushed to extract iron from 1900 until 1978. Bare sand was eventually colonised by moss, lichen, grasses, sedges and trees, including willows, poplars and tamaracks.

As part of this evolutionary process, tiny orchid seeds blew in, and now the wetland is the proud owner of six species of bog orchids, including millions of rose pogonias and grass pinks.

Experts report the variety of fungi that colonise a plant’s root system and enhance its ability to absorb nutrients is partly responsible for the colonisation.

But nature moves on, and the orchids may be a fleeting botanical memory, for the already, an aggressive non-native reed called phragmites is choking out other plants in the area. With the inevitable lack of sunshine, it is expected they will decline.

A classic case of botanical carpe diem.