STAR LAKE, N.Y. (AP) — Millions of orchids are now growing in a hundred-acre wetland in the Adirondack Park that developed on waste from a vast open-pit iron mine, a transformation scientists say is most impressive because it happened naturally.
“It’s a testament to nature’s ability to heal itself,” said Grete Bader, a graduate student who recently wrote her master’s thesis about the plant life at the former Benson Mines, about 35 miles from the Canadian border.
The wetland, which remains privately owned and off limits to the public, formed on part of thousands of acres of coarse sand left over when granite ore was crushed to extract iron from 1900 until 1978. That bare sand eventually gave way to moss, lichen, grasses, sedges and trees, including willows, poplars and tamaracks.
Orchids arrived as dust-like seeds from surrounding areas. The wetland is now home to six species of bog orchids, including millions of rose pogonias and grass pinks.
“I’ve been involved in orchid-rich habitats all over the country for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Donald Leopold, a professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
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