Download the original photo
Craig Freeman
Curator in Charge
Botany
Biodiversity Institute

Senior Scientist - Kansas Biological Survey

Contact Information

Office Phone: 
785.864.3453
Building: 
Bridwell Laboratory / McGregor Herbarium

 

Recent Blog Posts

November 30, 2010
When the cold winds of November tug the last leaves from the maples, basswoods...

My research documents the diversity and distribution of plants in the grasslands of central North America, seeks explanations for those patterns, and examines related conservation issues. Studies involve assessing plant population and plant community occurrences, gathering baseline floristic data to characterize natural and developed landscapes, and developing conservation-oriented land management strategies.  In parallel, I do descriptive, alpha-level, collection- and specimen-based taxonomic research that derives in part from my ecological and floristic studies.  Specimens derived from my survey and inventory work come primarily from the central and western U.S. and are deposited mostly in the R.L. McGregor Herbarium (KANU).  Field observations for rare and declining species and plant communities are captured in legacy data sets maintained by the Biodiversity Institute and Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas.

 

Publications

November 30, 2010

When the cold winds of November tug the last leaves from the maples, basswoods, and elms, orchids probably are the farthest thing from most Kansans’ minds.  However, fall, winter, and early spring are the best seasons to search for one of the state’s more secretive plants – the puttyroot orchid or Adam-and-Eve [Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt.].  The plant’s specific epithet “hyemale”, referring to winter, alludes to the plant’s habit of producing a winter leaf.  The name puttyroot is a reference to sticky substance released from the crushed tubers, which usually occur in pairs (hence the name Adam-and-Eve).

Puttyroot has evolved a fascinating strategy to survive in the low-light environments of rich, deciduous forests.  As forest canopies develop in the spring, light limits the ability of understory plants to photosynthesize.  Consequently, many herbaceous species flower and fruit in the spring, before the canopy fills in, or in the fall, when the canopy begins to thin.  Puttyroot takes this strategy to an extreme.  Each plant produces a single, elliptic, dark green, pleated, 3-6 inch-long leaf in the fall.  The ground-hugging leaf remains green and photosythetic from fall through winter and into spring, producing sugars needed by the plant to grow.  From late May into mid June, some plants will produce a single, 10-20 inch-tall flowering, each bearing a dozen whitish purple or brownish white flowers near the tip.  Ribbed, pendent fruits – each about 1 inch long – mature through the summer and persist into the fall, leaving another clue to the plant’s presence.  

 

 

 

Populations of puttyroot are documented in 10 eastern Kansas counties (Anderson, Coffey, Crawford, Douglas, Franklin, Johnson, Leavenworth, Linn, Miami, and Wyandotte).  Most occur in moist, maple-basswood forests or cottonwood-dominated floodplain forests along rivers and streams.  Populations generally comprise a few, closely-spaced individuals, but large populations can contain several hundred plants.

The next time you head out to your favorite forest trail for a fall or winter walk, keep an eye to the ground.  If you are lucky, you may spy the distinctive leaves of this forest gem.  If you do find this rare Kansas orchid, plan a return visit to marvel at its amazing flowers and fruits in the dim light of the forest floor.       

4 comments
There are no additional posts.

From the Biodiversity Insitute blog

September 28, 2012
Please congratulate Dr. Matthew Gimmel on his acceptance of a 2.5 year European Social Fund postdoctoral fellowship to work on beetle systematics in the lab of Dr. Milada Bocakova, Department of...
September 28, 2012
The Chaboo lab hosted Sara López from the Ciudad Universitaria (UNAM) and the Departament of Zoology, National Collection of Insects, Mexico City, Mexico. Sara is conducting M.Sc. research on a...
August 22, 2012
The Aug. 6 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  included a large-scale analysis of bony fishes using DNA sequencing. One of the major conclusions is that tarpons, eels...
August 17, 2012
The Biodiversity Institute was well represented at the 7th World Congress of Herpetology held on August 8–13 in Vancouver, Canada. Among the 1700+ delegates from 41 countries were Rafe Brown,...
August 4, 2012
From Andrew: After a day of rest back in Paramaribo after our Voltzberg adventure, we loaded up the trucks today and headed for Brownsberg Nature Park, which sits atop a 1500 ft. mountain a few...
July 31, 2012
From Clay: Last night was our final night at the research station at the base of Voltzberg. After breakfast, we packed our hammocks and made a pile of the food and gear the porters were going to...
July 30, 2012
From Clay: We woke up at 4 o’clock this morning and we’re on the trail shortly before 5 a.m. We were planning to reach the summit of Voltzberg to watch the sunrise. Of course,...
July 24, 2012
 I caught a glimpse of the mountains as I left the field team, two days ago.  Over the last 48 hours Dr. Tess Sanguila and I drove back and forth along the north coast of Mindanao, visiting...
July 16, 2012
Funny, just after I waxed cathartic about figuring out that one species was actually two, today I experienced a kind of reversal.  Shrub frogs of the genus Philautus in the Philippines are, in...
July 12, 2012
 Today was a cathartic day in my own personal journey in studies of Philippine biodiversity.  The story starts in 1991 when, as an undergraduate student at Miami University, I joined my...

Galleries