Sunday, October 31, 2010

Giant Rattlesnake Orchis (Goodyera oblongifolia)

This very common native orchid would probably be overlooked by most folk since it is neither very showy nor very large.  We have seen it on almost every hike in the Pacific Northwest and often in large numbers and at elevations that range from sea level to thousands of feet.  It ranges from Alaska to Maine and Newfoundland and as far south as Mexico.

The 3-8 leaves, which hug the ground, are 10-15 cm long and form a rosette at the base of the plant.  The flower spikes are as tall as 45 cm and  hold their flowers on one side of the spike, often in large numbers - as many as 35 flowers.  The individual flowers are less than 1 cm in size and are white and green in color.  There are two forms of the plant, a rather plain green-leaved form, and a very beautiful form with dark green leaves and striking white reticulations.