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Polk County’s most wanted – Plant!

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, Conserving Carolina and botanist/ecologist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Polk County’s Most Wanted—Plant,” a cryptic and enigmatic orchid of the mountains- the Kidneyleaf Twayblade (Listera smallii).

Occurring exclusively in the southern and central Appalachians, the Kidneyleaf Twayblade (sometimes referred to as the Appalachian Twayblade) is one of our lesser known orchids. Found in mountainous regions in our state, preferred habitats are in the acidic humus of shaded swamps or damp thickets with Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum). Bloom times in our region are June and July.

Always under twelve inches in height, this orchid has two opposite, dark green leaves that are wider than long. It produces up to 15 unique-looking flowers that are combinations of white, brown, purple or green. Flowers are ¼’’ – 3/8’’ long with two divided and spreading rounded lobes.

Although not yet reported for Polk County, Kidneyleaf Twayblade should be purposefully searched for in the western, montane section of the county. Look carefully in deep shade, close to a stream or other water source and under Rhododendron maximum. Populations are not typically large and the plant’s coloration makes it easy to miss.

If you think that you have located an individual or population of Kidneyleaf Twayblade in Polk County, please contact Pam Torlina at Conserving Carolina by email at pam@conservingcarolina.org, and if you can provide a photo, that would be particularly helpful.

Visit Conserving Carolina’s website, conservingcarolina.org/polk-most-wanted, for more information about “Polk County’s Most Wanted” and to download and print a “Pocket Guide” with all of the “Most Wanted” plants, animals, and habitats that you can be on the lookout for!

Now available for purchase on Amazon or free download: “An Inventory of the Significant Natural Areas of Polk County, North Carolina,” a culmination of David Campbell’s seven years in the field documenting the rare and significant flora and fauna in Polk County. The document can be downloaded from Conserving Carolina’s website at conservingcarolina.org/polk-county-inventory.

Conserving Carolina, your local land trust, is dedicated to protecting land and water, promoting good stewardship, and creating opportunities for people to enjoy nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.

Submitted by Pam Torlina / Written by David Campbell