A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 176

Small whorled pogonias located

Last week it was reported in a reliable section of this newspaper (Obviously not Farmington Corner - Ed.) that Strafford County is home to one of the world's rarest orchids - the diminutive but delightful Small Whorled Pogonia. It may be recalled that this peculiar flower lives secretly underground for some 10 years before nudging up a stalk that is briefly crowned by a pale yellow blossom. After that, it's down in the dark for another decade.

This seldom seen orchid is on the federal, state and Farmington selectmen's endangered species list, and as such, its actual whereabouts are a desperately guarded secret known only to a handful of plant specialists and key town officials. Therefore, only after much soul searching, and in the interests of truth, press freedom, and the public's right to know, do I disclose local spots which harbor these elusive Small Whorled Pogonias.

Site 1 - Hackett's Crevasse: Residents on River Road may have long been puzzled as to why the large crater near Route 11 has never been filled in by the road crew. Well let me fill them in, if the facts are not already beginning to dawn. Yes, Hackett's Crevasse is home to a dormant colony of that rarest of orchids! 

How could we expect a squad of keen amateur botanists to come and heartlessly dump half a truck load of cold patch on their sleeping orchid heads when in just another seven years, come June, their little petals will be nodding in a summery breeze once again?

Site 2 - Route 153: This thriving colony of Small Whorled Pogonias is located in a field to the west of Route 153 just where it crosses the Cocheco River in Farmington. Such is the importance of the site that strenuous protection measures have been adopted and the Army Corps of Engineers has built a levee on the southern flank of the growing area to prevent springtime flooding. In addition, thanks to the botanical responsibility of a member of the general public, accidental encroachment from the east and north has been greatly diminished by his generous construction of a sheltering arc using secondhand stoves and freezers.

Site 3 - Right downtown: A rather foolhardy clump of Small Whorled Pogonias is suspected of living in the flower planter outside Dumontski's Restaurant right on Main Street, though such a high profile situation obviously carries with it a strong element of danger. On more than one occasion an avid collector of rare botanical species has emptied out the loam onto the sidewalk in search of the precious flora, and each summer squads of orchid lovers sit along the edge of the planter hoping the blooms will pop up so they can pick 'em.

Site 4 - Orchid Circle: The name, of course, is a dead giveaway for this location off Central Street but there are hazards for any would be viewers or collectors of the Small Whorled, here. Just as the Minotaur guarded Daedalus's labyrinth and took its toll of youths and maidens, so does a Killer Cat protect the blooms of Orchid Circle from any scavenging neighborhood pet who might inadvertently root up the Eastern Seaboard's rarest flower. Aware of the vital role this furry giant is playing, Animal Control Officer John Fitch is expected to deputize the creature and bestow it with wider responsibilities, as sniffing out unlicensed dogs.

Site 5 - Farmington Country Club: Although some folks, unaware of the Small Whorled Pogonia's fragility, may think the dormant plants are pretty safe once winter frosts have penetrated the ground, let me rid them of this fallacy. Tramping feet can send fatal shudders down through the frozen soil and therefore known colonies of the orchid should be avoided, particularly around mid-February when they are most vulnerable, according to experts. In 1988, it was discovered that Farmington Country Club played host to several dozen Small Whorled Pogonias, and consequently it was wisely decided by town officials to hold no more Henry Wilson Winter Carnivals at that locus. Keeping the orchid site secret meant the true cause of the carnival's cancellation could not be divulged, of course, and some unfair criticism resulted. But now, you know the whole story. Sshhh!

When art Thou coming?

The Annual Goodwin Library Art Show, normally held in mid-February, will have a new date this year, though not because Small Whorled Pogonias are sharing a chilly basement with the one-armed nut carver's baskets. At least, maybe not. Dorinda was distinctly hedgey when asked why she had switched to the first week in April. Muttered something about better weather and press coverage.

Anyway, the art show will run in 1991 from April 1 to 6, and of even greater importance (at least to reporters) is the red letter day March 30, earmarked for an exhibitors' opening wine and cheese party.

January 15, 1991

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