Mysterious!

Stumbled over this while putting up Redneck Flowerbeds along the fence. (Ingredients–one 2 x 8, two metal stakes, one mallet, one chain link fence. Add dirt and mulch, plant vines along fence line so that you don’t have to keep staring at the @[email protected]#!&! chain link.)

What am I?

My botanical knowledge is pretty extensive in some very specific areas, but “proper names of leaves so you can look them up” is not one of them. So I have no idea what this is. The leaves look a little like plantain and a little like lady’s slipper and are probably something else entirely.

I’m interested because it appears to be coming up RIGHT NOW and it’s January, ergo this is an evergreen or an ephemeral or very very confused.

Seasonally dry woods, hard clay, some leaf litter, North Carolina Piedmont. Nothing else grows in this area except honeysuckle and sweet gum seedlings, so I’m curious as much because that is one tough little bugger as anything else.

Anybody got any ideas?

 

ETA: Ellen Honeycutt, who is obviously amazing, managed to ID this puppy for me — it’s “Crane-fly Orchid,” a peculiar native orchid that puts up leaves in fall, then flower in summer (after the leaves are dead.) The plant may have been there for years, but it’s so unobtrusive I might never have noticed if I hadn’t been stomping around by the fence line. As each corm puts up a single leaf, there’s clearly a clump of corms here, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for flowers in summer.  Crane-fly orchid is endangered in several parts of its range, but secure in North Carolina.