Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ozette Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis)

The Ozette Coralroot is considered to be a variety of the Spotted Coralroot, the species posted in the previous entry.  It is so different from the Spotted Coralroot, however, and so rare, that I'm posting this description separately.  It deserves a special entry, too, because it is the only native orchid that is unique (indigenous) to the State of Washington.

This rare orchid was discovered in 1967 and first described in 2001 by Mr. Ed Tisch of Port Angeles, Washington.  It was found in one location in Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula in the coastal forests of that county.  It was thought, at the time of its discovery, to be confined to that one county, but has since been discovered in several locations across the water on Whidbey Island.  It was discovered there in 2006 by a young lady named Chelsea Kieffer while studying at the Pacific Rim campus of the Au Sable Institute on that island.  She found it in the woods on the property of the Institute.  That is where we've seen it.


This plant is from eight inches to two feet tall and has bright reddish-purple stems.  The plants we've seen had from six to twenty-six flowers that completely lacked the spotting of the other two varieties, the Western Coralroot and the Western Spotted Coralroot.  The flowers were the same color as the stem on the exterior, but opened a greenish color on the inside with green petals
lightly striped in red-purple, a white lip, and a yellow column.


As with all the other Coralroots, this plant is leafless, sending up its flowering stems in June and July, and leaving no trace of itself except dead spikes when finished.  It is thought to be saprophytic, getting its nourishment not through photosynthesis, but from the roots of other plants and by means of a soil fungus.  Its root looks like a piece of coral, hence its name. This unique plant was named after the Ozette Indians who were the original occupants of the land on which it was first found.  I am not a taxonomist and have to trust the judgment of those who know better than I, but this plant looks so different from the other Western Coralroots, that it is hard to believe they are not entirely different species.   It is considered “of special concern” by the USDA.


Interesting facts:
(1) All the colonies discovered in Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula were found at about 300 meters from the ocean.
(2) In his book, Paul Martin Brown says that this variety is always found in pure colonies, but the plants on Whidbey Island were not in such colonies.  They were growing among and with other plants of the Western Spotted Coralroot.

Note: much of this article has been published by the American Orchid Society on its web page at: Ozette Coralroot.

18 comments:

  1. Hi! This is great! You have such a wonderful portfolio of wild orchids and your photos are amazing! I just discovered your blog as I was searching info on the Ozette Coralroot and found that you wrote about my visit to WA! Have you found anymore of this orchid in or outside its range? What was Ed Tisch doing sitting on his discovery for so many years? -Chelsea

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  2. Hi Chelsea,

    How nice to hear from you again! I remember the trip you led to Cornet Bay and the Au Sable Institute. Thanks for commenting and for your kind comments.

    We were just down to Au Sable Institute Friday - the Spotted Coralroots were everywhere - I'ver never seen so many (have a blog post about ready to be posted about them).

    We really went down, however, to check on the Ozettes and they were at least a week from blooming - we've had a cold and wet spring.

    Since you were out here we've gone every spring to see them and have seen them, too, in the area of Deception Pass, but no new locations.

    I had hoped to find them in Washington Park near Anacortes, but in spite of looking hard found no trace of them - plenty of Western and Spotted but no Ozettes.

    Will have to check out some of the areas north of Deception Pass in a few weeks and always keep my eyes open in the Chuckanuts, but no sign of them elsewhere.

    We did find a spike Friday that had the spots of the Spotted C., but the color of the Ozeetes and wondered if it was an intermediate form, but perhaps just a variation of the very variable maculata.

    All the best to you and I hope you are doing well. If you are ever out this way again, look us up.

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  3. Well I have found that orchid in my front yard (the part left in the wild up here in the Cariboo Region of B.C. ... http://cariboowalk.blogspot.com/2011/06/coralroot.html

    I have also seen the spotted one growing back in the bush.

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  4. I would really like to see pictures of this in your area. If you've indeed found it there, that is incredible news.

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  5. My son just found it in the woods in my mom's yard in Port Orchard, WA. SO BEAUTIFUL!

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  6. Wonderful, Melissa. Hope you took some pictures.

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  7. I found a coral root in thetis lake park that has no spots or stripes. How can I upload a photo to get an ID?

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    1. You can send a photo to me as an attachment at ronaldhhanko @ outlook.com.

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  8. Thank you Ron for helping me ID these. In my quest to get an ID I sent out query emails to a few others. I have had a response from Andy Mackinnon (author of Plants of Coastal BC) as well as the Ministry of Environment!

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    1. Glad to be of help. Would be interested in hearing what the other said.

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    2. Just saw this reply. Andy Mackinnon pretty much just confirmed that the pics I have are of the Ozette Coral Roots. Funny how I got all of my responses around the same time. I am most curious to see what happens to the one that had what looked like 3 petals. The one which you said is a mutated form of the Ozette.

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    3. I'd be interested, too, and hope you keep track of it. The trouble with Coralroots is, however, that they don't come up every year or come up in the same places.

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    4. Hi Ron, I went back to the spot and did not find them but did find others (not mutated) in the same areas as last year.

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    5. Not a surprise that you didn't find them. They are strange plants and there are always surprises with them.

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  9. my husband photographed some of these on the way up to Eaton Lake near Hope, BC yesterday.

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    1. I think we've identified them as Merten's Coralroot. Great find in either case.

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  10. I found a yellow (brownish ) coral root unlike any I have seen. Can I email it to you for help in ID? Thank you

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    1. You certainly may email me the photos, Thora. Would love to see them.

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