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.
(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.