NYFA Board member Steven Daniel reported that he recently found a population of puttyroot, Aplectrum hyemale, in Monroe County. This is the second extant record for this orchid in New York, and the first verified report for Monroe County since 1895! Puttyroot is a curious orchid – like Calypso and Cranefly orchid (Tipularia) it puts out a single leaf in the fall. This leaf is able to photosynthesize (when it is not snow covered) when temperatures are above freezing. Come spring the leaf begins to wither, and is usually gone by the time the plant flowers, typically in late May or June.
This species can be easily overlooked. Look for puttyroot in rich beech-maple woods. Now is the best time to look for it. It will stand out in the mostly leaf covered forest floor, or with a fine dusting of snow. The leaves are distinctive with their pleating and white venation.