Yeah, mostly weeds: Hungarian Brome, Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), Tall Fescue, Field Hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum), Kentucky Blue Grass, Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), and Tall Goldenrod can all be seen in the photo above. But look at the plant in the middle of the photo.
I was completely shocked. Astounded. Baffled. I think my response, when I saw the plant, was, "Holy crap, Habenaria lacera!" I called Lindsay, who was in the house, from my cell phone, first to make sure I was really awake, and second to have her join me on the trail with a camera and notebook. I had found a single plant of Ragged Fringed Orchid, Platanthera lacera (=Habenaria lacera) among a bunch of weeds in our upland old field. Plants of the Chicago Region (Swink and Wilhelm, 1994) lists acid bog, peaty sand prairie, mesic prairie, and artificially disturbed moist peaty areas as habitat for this species. Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region (Case, 1987) adds sandy wet meadow and roadside ditch to the list of known habitats for Ragged Fringed Orchid. Orchids of Indiana (Homoya, 1993) includes calcareous fen, acid seep spring, dry field, mesic flatwoods, and mesic upland forest to the list of known habitats for the species. Of this long list of habitats, Homoya's dry field comes closest to what we have on our property. However, he later states that Ragged Fringed Orchid is found most frequently in moist, sunny, mildly acidic habitats, which are more common in some of the northern Indiana natural regions, but that in southern Indiana it can be found in old fields dominated by Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). This seems different from the silty clay, weedy field in which the plant grows on our property.
All of this leads me to question my plans for our property. When we purchased the land, we assumed that the area was historically mesic upland forest, and the historical survey notes agree. I had fully intended to plant trees throughout the property to restore this pre-settlement plant community. After finding this species, which is most commonly found in prairie-like communities, I wonder if there were historically patches of prairie on our property, and if instead if I should manage for a mosaic of prairie and mesic forest instead of a uniform mesic upland forest.
It is interesting to note that the Ragged Fringed Orchid on our property is located approximately 1 1/2 feet off of our mowed trail, approximately 4 feet from a deer path, and approximately 10 feet from several large Autumn Olive shrubs. Ragged Fringed Orchid is a species that can show up one year and not the next, so it is possible that conditions at our property were just right this year for the species to show up, where it hadn't been there the previous two yeas that we've owned the property, and it may never show up again. Ragardless, it made this 4th of July memorable, and has really made me rethink how to "restore" our property. Any insights would be much appreciated.