|A Crested Coralroot Orchid Hexalectris spicata in the Great Trinity Forest, June 2013|
|The Piedmont Ridge Trail|
A plant so specialized that it cannot be transplanted or curated in another environment. Attempts in the past to move these plants, transplant or take one for study have all failed.
Below is the Hexalectris nitida (Glass Mountain crested coralroot). So rare that it is listed as an Endangered Species in the State of New Mexico. In Texas they are a little more common but up until the 1980s they were thought only to exist much further to the south and west than Dallas. It rarely has open blooms in the Dallas population, it self pollinates according to those who have studied them. The State of Texas doesn't formally recognize any plant species as Endangered or Threatened unless the US Fish & Wildlife Service has already done so, therefore, in Texas the federal and state lists are the same.
|A lone Hexalectris nitida (Glass Mountain crested coralroot) under a canopy of cedar and oak trees growing in the unique detrius of the Great Trinity Forest|
A thin veneer of soil noted as the Eddy Brackett sits atop the uplands here. This soil was once common in a belt that stretched through Pleasant Grove, East Dallas and Lake Highlands. Paved and developed long ago very few places still exist to find these plants.
A Special Partnership
The soil here harbors a special host for the orchids to survive, a special fungus known as mycorrhizal fungi. It's believed that the decaying leaf matter from the surrounding oak trees above provides the nutrients needed for the fungi to thrive. The undisturbed plant matter is a vital part of the success for the fungi and the orchids. The rhizome of the orchids tap into the fungi which provides all the nutrients that the orchid needs to thrive. As a result, the orchid requires no sunlight for growth and relies completely on the nutrients of the host fungi for food.
|Hexalectris nitida (Glass Mountain crested coralroot)|
The orchid extracts food and nutrients from the mycorrhizal fungus without providing any apparent benefits to the fungi. Thus, the orchid is parasitic on the fungus and because the fungus obtains its food from its host(oak trees), the orchid is an indirect parasite of the oak.
|Coralroot Orchid as seen from above growing through a floor of acorns and leaves|
A Super Long Lifecyle
Earlier this spring I posted about the Trout Lilies that reside in the woods here that take seven long years from seed to flowering adult. The Crested Coral Root Orchid takes an estimated ten to twenty years from seed germination to flowering adult. During the decade or two between germination and flowering there might be many individuals in an area that are simply unseen.
All species of orchids require fungi for seed germination and early development, but species vary widely in their dependence on fungi as they mature. The Coralroot needs the underlying fungi for carbs and nutrients for it to survive.
Hopefully the orchid pictured at left had a successful flowering and will seed offspring. Look for them in the year 2033.