7/6/2014

Wind was roaring down the lake, so we put the battered Grumman into the marsh behind Camp Solitude and paddled towards the white water lilies and yellow bullhead lilies that had just started to bloom in the back water, aiming the canoe for the dark red flowers of the pitcher plants in the sphagnum mat in the middle that is slowly acidifying the marsh. Within a few feet, purple pickerel weed is replaced with bog rosemary, cotton grass and sundews.

A kingfisher rattled at us for intruding. Fortunately, except for a few deerflies, the biting bugs were elsewhere. At the edge of the bog, thousands of pink orchids came into focus. An inch long, with a bearded lower lip, the rose pogonias spread by rootlets across the bog mat, almost indistinguishable from other greenery until they bloom into a pink haze six inches above the moss.

They are said to smell like raspberries, though the fragrant lilies drowned them out. Bumblebees were busy among the orchids, landing and crawling inside for a nectar reward, then backing out with pollen on their heads to fertilize the next flower. Naturalist Bernd Heinrich found the grass pink, a flower similar to the rose pogonia, fools bumblebees by attracting them, loading pollen on their bee bellies, then using them to pollinate other grass pinks while not bothering to offer any nectar in return.

Christine Parrish recommends mainemasternaturalist.org for those interested in training to become volunteer naturalists.