Plants of Southern New Jersey

Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River & Its Tributaries
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Plant Profile

Tipularia discolor

Cranefly orchid

Tipularia discolor
Tipularia discolor
Photo by Renee Brecht Britton and Brown. See credits below.
Tipularia discolor leaf Left: Tipularia discolor leaves. Note the deep madder-purple leaf to the left; that is the underside of T. discolor leaf. To its right is a rather "bumpy" looking leaf, which is the top of a T. discolor leaf.

Botanical name: Tipularia discolor
Common name: Cranefly orchid
Synonomy Tipularia unifolia B.S.P.
Group: Monocot
Family: Orchidaceae
Growth Type: Forb/herb
Duration: Perennial
Plant height: 15-20 inches
Flower color: greenish, tinged with madder-purple, numerous in an elongated loose bractless raceme.
Flower size: 1/2" across; 1-3 cm. long, spur about 2 cm. long
Flowering/fruiting time Early July -Early August
Habitat: Hardwood forests
Range in New Jersey: Northern and middle districts and lower Cape May peninsula.
Heritage ranking if any: S3
Misc.: USDA lists as a facultative upland  species.Usually occurs in non-wetlands (estimated probability 67%-99%), but occasionally found on wetlands (estimated probability 1%-33%).

Species name discolor is "di-scolor" rather than "dis-color", refering to the two colors, from the contrast of the upper and lower leaf surfaces)

Leaf is 5-13 cm. long, disappearing before anthesis; often it is easier to find this plant in the winter by looking for its unusual leaf while all around it is brown. Leaf emerges in fall and persist through the winter, withering in the spring. Leaf is gone by the time it flowers.

Stone notes: "This curious orchid was found in lower Cape May County a number of years ago by Mr. Joseph Crawford, but was not discovered again until detected by Mr. O.H. Brown, who has in the last few years found it at a number of scattered stations in the dark oak and pine woods of the lower third of the peninsula. The single leaf arises in autumn and persists throughout the winter, but perishes before the flowers appear. The absence of any foliage and the spidery character and obscure coloring of the flowers makes it an exceedingly difficult plant to detect.
Pursh's type locality was Pine Barrens of New jersey, but he probably used the term loosely."(378)
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