Daily Postcard: Fairy Slipper Blooms On Pajarito Mountain

Daily Postcard: A fairy slipper orchid blooms mightily Friday on Pajarito Mountain following last week’s rains. The fairy slipper orchid, called the most beautiful terrestrial orchid in North America, bears a single, showy flower on a single, dainty, purple stem. The flower of the fairy slipper orchid possesses no nectar and instead attracts its pollinators by deception. The scent and shape of the flower mimics those that do have nectar, which lures bumble bees. Bee land on the lip of the flower and enter the pouch in search of food. Failing to find any, the bee exits the pouch, rubbing against the column overhanging the pouch opening. Pollen is deposited on the bee and is transferred to the next flower it visits. Following pollination, the fairy slipper orchid flower fades rapidly. By late summer, the capsule has ripened and the seeds are dispersed. The leaf withers and the plant becomes dormant until September, when a new leaf is produced and the cycle commences again. Source: inaturalist.org. Photo by Gretchen Mills