Logo Return Visit to Cherry Cove & Upper Bell Creek
Southern Nantahala Wilderness - Early May 2017
All Text & Images:
Copyright (2017)

An afternoon trek from our house to look for mid-spring wildflower blooms.
Up to Big Spring Ridge, on to Cherry Cove, over the Gap, and down the Upper Bell Creek drainage.

Our recent weather has not been optimal for outdoor documentary photography, alternating between clear days with harsh sun, or rainy days with gale winds.   This day was no exception, and the contrasty sunlight kept me from taking the style of photos I prefer.   Still, it was a beautiful & relaxing day to spend in the great outdoors.   Among the locations I visited was a spot I discovered last year, which I had nicknamed "Lady's Slipper Central".   There are literally hundreds of these pink flowers blooming in an area of barely an acre.

Pink Lady's Slippers   (Cypripedium acaule)

Showy Orchis orchids   (Galearis spectabilis)

Flame Azalea, yellow-orange form   (Rhododendron calendulaceum)

Umbrella Leaf   (Diphylleia cymosa)

Great White Trillium   (Trillium grandiflorum)

A clump of ten Lady's Slippers

Vasey'sTrillium   (Trillium vaseyi)

Mayapple   (Podophyllum peltatum)

Flame Azalea, red-orange form

Cliff Saxifrage, aka Michaux's Saxifrage
(Hydatica petiolaris, syn. Micranthes petiolaris or Saxifrage michauxii)

While not rare, this pretty little plant is infrequent in the mountains.

Pink Lady's Slipper

A nice pair of Great White Trilliums

False Solomon's Seal   (Maianthemum racemosum)

Canada Violet   (Viola canadensis)

Pink Lady's Slippers

Yellow Mandarin   (Prosartes lanuginosa)

Trillium grandiflorum
These trilliums start out white and turn red with age; most were on the way out at this location.

Umbrella Leaf   (Diphylleia cymosa), with
Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi)

Lady's Slipper quartet
Oops, I didn't see the one at the bottom; I should have said Quintet...

Flame Azalea, red form

Lady's Slipper Pollination

I was cognizant of the Lady's Slipper pollination process, but hadn't witnessed it.   While photographing a group of flowers, I saw a bee enter the bloom through the closed slit at the top-side of the "slipper" and become trapped inside.   After several minutes of struggle, it was finally able to extricate itself, thus pollinating the plant.   The general process is described below:

"Pollination in lady's slippers involves deception and entrapment. The flowers have little or no nectar to reward insects, but their bright colours are attractive. The shape of the slipper part of the flower (the lip) encourages insects, usually bees, flies or beetles, to crawl inside. They enter through the fissure in the front of the lip, then find that they cannot exit the way they entered, owing to the infolded margins. The inside of the lip is designed to guide the insect to the only exit, out the top of the lip, where it must pass by the flower's stigma, depositing any pollen the insect may have been carrying. Then as it leaves the opening in the lip it brushes past the anthers, collecting more pollen, which hopefully (from the plant's perspective), will be carried to another lady's slipper of the same species."

The bee is about to enter the bottom flower through the closed slit.

The bee struggled for several minutes to get out of the flower chamber.   I could see it through the
translucent flower and hear it buzzing loudly inside.   Several times it poked its head and front legs
through the opening at the top of the flower, but could not pull its lower body through and fell back.

Finally, after several minutes of struggle, it managed to extricate itself and pull its abdomen
through the narrow hole, thus depositing pollen and picking up new pollen in the process.
It flew off immediately after this shot was taken.

Cherry Cove Index S. Nantahala Index
Hiawassee Index NE GA - NC Index