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Piperia michaelii; Mike's Rein Orchid   

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Piperia michaelii
Piperia michaelii
Mike's Rein Orchid
Photographer: Aaron Schusteff

ID: 0000 0000 0814 0510 (2014-08-05)

Copyright © 2014 Aaron Schusteff

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  • date of photo  Jun 11, 2014
  • location   Marina State Beach (Monterey County, California, US)
  • family Orchidaceae
  • notes   You have to look carefully, but there are some interesting plants in that visual mess. Look for the 'asparagus'. I've been trying to think of a good title for this picture:

    'Beauty and the Beast'?

    'The Magnificent Seven'?

    'The Ice Plant Cometh'?

    I was amazed (and aghast) when first shown this population of the relatively rare native orchid Piperia michaelii growing in good numbers amidst a nearly uniform monoculture of invasive ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis). The area had long been disturbed by adjacent roads, freeways, railways, phone lines...the soil was hard packed, and the habitat was totally open, with none of the shrub or tree canopy I'd assumed P. michaelii had a strong affinity (if not definite need) for. The sprawling, entangling (and for many plants smothering and strangling) ice plant was matted to a good depth in most the area, covering most the soil with its detritus which is generally an impediment to germination and recruitment of native plants. Yet these P. michaelii were somehow able to grow and apparently persist here in some sort of mysterious (at least to me) equilibrium. I wonder if this is a old remnant population that's somehow been able to surive here, or if it germinated and pioneered at this locale? Both scenarios seem very unexpected.

    Well, I'd rather the invasive ice plant wasn't there, but I'm very glad this particular population of P. michaelii is able to survive here, whatever the underlying biological dynamics making that possible may be. (Don't orchids need fairly specialized mycorrhyzal symbionts to germinate and persist? Would those usually be found in a monoculture of ice plant on disturbed habitat?)

    Just goes to show how nature can up-end our (relatively feeble-minded) assumptions about how things work. We still have a lot to learn from her.

    Many thanks to David Styer for discovering and leading me to this interesting si(gh)te.

  • photo category: Plant - annual/perennial

  • common names   Mike's Rein Orchid (photographer)
  • Look for Jepson Manual treatments, maps (University & Jepson Herbaria)
  • View Calflora record for Piperia michaelii
  • View all photos in CalPhotos of Piperia michaelii
  • Check Google Images for Piperia michaelii

  • The photographer's identification Piperia michaelii has not been reviewed. Click here to review or comment on the identification.

    Using this photo   The thumbnail photo (128x192 pixels) on this page may be freely used for personal or academic purposes without prior permission under the Fair Use provisions of US copyright law as long as the photo is clearly credited with © 2014 Aaron Schusteff. For other uses, or if you have questions, contact Aaron Schusteff arbonius2[AT] (Replace the [AT] with the @ symbol before sending an email.)


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