July 17, 2013 Posted by: Park Ranger Joan Jacobowski

OK, true confession time, I’m a plant freak. My bumper sticker should read: “I brake for wild orchids”.  You have to admit, it’s really darn cool when you happen upon them growing in a ditch…or along the rivers. Here are three show stoppers to keep an eye out for in the next weeks along the Riverway: Purple Fringed Orchids (truly beautiful and fragrant besides!), the spectacular Turk’s Cap Lily and the incredible Bottle Gentian.

Purple Fringed Orchid

Turk's Cap Lily

Bottle Gentian


These colors, while beautiful, only tell part of the story of flowers: did you know that bees see colors in the ultra violet range of light that we can’t? Many of the flowers pollinated by bees have a region of low ultraviolet reflectance near the center of each petal. This region appears invisible to humans because our visual spectrum does not extend into the ultraviolet.

However, bees can detect ultraviolet light and “see” the ultraviolet pattern in a flower, called a nectar guide. This guide helps a bee quickly locate the flower's center. This adaptation benefits both the flower and the bee. The bee can more rapidly collect nectar and the flower is more effectively pollinated.

Captivated by orchid patterns? What are they imitating? To find out more about fascinating pollination strategies go to the U.S. Forest Service "Celebrating Wildflowers" website: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/.

As always, have a great time on the River! And keep your eyes open for wildflowers!

2 Comments Comments icon

  1. August 16, 2013 at 01:51

    They do indeed! According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hummingbirds, like most other birds do not have a well-developed sense of smell. They do, however, have color vision and unlike most vertebrates, are sensitive to ultra-violet light between 325 to 360 nanometers. Thank you for asking!

  2. Joe
    August 09, 2013 at 01:53

    Is the same true of hummingbirds?

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