Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Goals and Plans for 2012

 Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis

Not much hiking this time of the year and certainly no native orchids to look for, but at least we can plan for next summer and spring and have been doing so.  At this point our goals for 2012 are:

1) To see the five native orchids of Washington State that we have not yet seen.  They are Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii, Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin, Liparis loeselii, Platanthera sparsiflora and  Spiranthes diluvalis.  We do not expect to see all these in Washington State, since some of them are rare to non-existent in the state.  One site gets mowed every year and another is on private property and the owner will not allow anyone on the property.  If anyone knows of locations for these in the Northwest, please let me know.

2) To get better habitat pictures of many of the orchids we've already seen.  I worked quite hard on this last summer, but still am not satisfied with many of the pictures.  This will involve revisiting many locations, but we are always eager to do that anyway.

As to plans we have the following places on our agenda already in addition to many other locations:

1) The Siskiyous in Oregon.  We've been meaning to go for several years but have not yet made it there.  We want not only to see the orchids of the area but other wildflowers as well, and the scenery including the Oregon coast.  We may even get across the California border if we have sufficient time.

2) Some new orchid sites in the Canadian Rockies.  We've backpacked in Mount Robson Provincial Park two of the last three years and day-hiked there as well, but we now have information on other native orchid sites in Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and elsewhere.  Since we have a daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Edmonton, we usually get up that way in the summer.

These are musts, but there are many other locations in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia that we have on our list of places to see.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Goodyera oblongifolia at Ross Lake

This will be my last post of the year.  The native orchids are all finished blooming now and there is not a lot of time for hiking either.  In a way it's too bad that the last post has to do with an orchid as common and insignificant as this and not with something rarer and more beautiful, but such is life.

The Giant Rattlesnake Orchis is one we see on every hike, at every elevation, and in every possible habitat.  It is around 30 cm tall and has beautifully patterned leaves, but very small whitish tubular flowers.  These were photographed along the Ross Lake trail to Green point where they were growing everywhere in the woods.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Platanthera elongata at Ross Lake

The last two weeks of August we had our seven year old grandson with us.  He had come with us from Michigan and we took every opportunity to do fun things with him, going whale-watching, visiting the local fair, and going on an overnight backpacking trip.

Knowing that he was not used to hiking, we hiked in only a couple of miles to a favorite spot on Ross Lake in North Cascades National Park called Greenpoint.  There we spent the day after setting up camp and there also we spent the night in our sleeping bags and tents.

The trail we took followed the shore of the lake (created by Ross Dam), gradually climbing above the level of the lake and then dropping back down on a side trail to Greenpoint and the lake.  It was there we found once again a favorite orchid species, the Long-spurred Piperia.

It grew all along the trail though usually only a few scattered spikes in any location.  One of the last orchids to bloom in the area, its leaves had withered and if the 30-40 cm flower spikes had not been there it would have been impossible to locate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spiranthes romanzoffiana in Yellowstone National Park

We visited Yellowstone National Park for a day on our way to Michigan to see family.  We arrived at the west entrance early in the morning and were informed that road repairs were being done and that there was as much as a five hour delay to get past the road work.  Since it would have taken many hours to drive around to one of the other entrances and even longer to get back to the highway we had left behind we decided to press on.

After driving several miles into the park we found the traffic back up ahead of us as far as we could see and after waiting for a while we found that every half-hour or so the traffic would move about a mile ahead.  Every time we stopped after moving we got out of the car and explored the area, a very nice area of the park that follows the peaceful Madison River.  We both had our cameras and thus passed the time.

At one stop we found this native orchid growing the grass along the river's edge and were quite excited to find it so far away from any location we had previously discovered.  Later in the day, however, after getting free of the traffic and driving up the west side of the north loop we found the orchid several more times, in some of the geyser basins growing right in the area of the geyser run-off and later along the Gibbon River.

The orchid is one we've seen several times in Washington and that is my justification for posting it here.  It is a small plant, usually less than 30 cm tall with cream colored flowers that are braided around the flower spike, giving the genus its common name, Ladies' Tresses.  This particular species is the Hooded Ladies' Tresses, and is quite common in our area and further east, but always very beautiful.

As always we found the orchid growing in wetter areas, near streams, in run-off areas of the geysers, in wet, almost boggy meadows.  And, once we knew that it was blooming in the park, we were able to spot it in wetter areas as we drove through the park.The photo of the plants growing near a stream was taken in an area we spotted from the car window.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Epipactis gigantea at Lake Crescent

Epipactis gigantea is one of the more colorful and showy of our native orchids, but is quite rare in our area, though much more common to the south of us.  We know only a couple of sites and make a point of visiting them, if possible, every year.  To our dismay, we visited one of those sites at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park and found that someone, probably a park employee, had used a strimmer on the site and that only a couple of stems of what is usually a good show remained.  The area has a beach and is a high use area, but there was no reason for what had been done to this valuable stand of orchids.

In this location the species grows right on the edge of the lake making photography extremely difficult.  I had to kneel in the lake and my wife sat down on a rock in the water to get pictures, but ended up wet anyway.  Adding to the difficulty was a light breeze which made both the stems and the moveable lip difficult to photograph without blur.  We managed to get some pictures by using a high ISO and shutter speed, and these are the best of our pictures.  The moveable lip is the reason this plant is sometimes called the Chatterbox Orchid and its liking for wet areas the reason it is known as the Stream Orchid.

For another look at this species check out this older post:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Four Platantheras (Piperias) in Olympic National Park

Washington has five native Platantheras that were previously classified as Piperias and we saw four of them in Olympic National Park on August 3rd, one in a dwarf form  that is unique to Olympic National Park and to the Hurricane Ridge area of the park.  The five we saw were Platanthera ephemerantha, formerly Piperia candida, the Slender White Piperia, Platanthera elegans, the Elegant Piperia, Platanthera elongata, the Long-spurred Piperia, and Platanthera unalascensis, the Alaskan Piperia, in its dwarf form, P. unalascensis fma. olympica.  The only one we did not see was Platanthera transversa, the Flat-spurred Piperia, though I am sure that if we had looked longer and harder we would have found it also.

Platanthera elegans, as the name suggests, is the tallest and showiest of these species.  We found it growing in the area of Lake Crescent on the north end of the park, though only a few plants.  It can grow to 100 cm tall and has numerous white flowers that stand out in the more shaded locations in which it grows.

Platanthera elongata is named for its long curved spur.  We found it along the Little River Road just outside the park boundaries, growing on a dry, mossy, south-facing bank along the road.  The plants were almost always single and seemed to prefer the steeper areas of the bank on which they were growing.

Platanthera unalascensis is the least attractive of the Piperias with its small green flowers, even though they are produced in abundance.  Ordinarily a very tall plant of nearly 80 cm, on Hurricane Ridge it grows in a very exposed alpine location in a dwarf form that is only about 15 cm tall.

Platanthera ephemerantha was a new species for us.  It is similar to P. unalascensis and used to be included with that species.  It is slightly more attractive, however, because its flowers are white rather than green and its tall spikes stand out among the surrounding vegetation.  These were a bit past their prime.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Platanthera dilatata in the Canadian Rockies

One of the joys of traveling in the Canadian Rockies from mid-June to mid-July is seeing the Bog Candles, so very aptly named, in every wet location along the highway.  Driving the Yellowhead Highway we began to see them along the road north of Blue River and saw them again along the road from Tete Jaune Cache all the way to Jasper National Park.

They are often growing by the hundreds and even thousands in open boggy areas and their white flower spikes stand out like candles amid the surrounding vegetation.  When one stops to examine them more closely their sweet fragrance is almost overwhelming.  They certainly are one of the attractions of  what is often a long and tiring drive.

We found two varieties on this trip, the short-spurred Platanthera dilatata var. albiflora (below), and the mid-length spurred var. dilatata, the two varieties often growing and blooming together.  The latter is considered to be more common but we found both varieties in abundance.  Neither seemed to be more common than the other, though we made no counts.

Platanthera obtusata along the Berg Lake Trail

Hiking the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia on Monday, July 11, this was one of the native orchid species I was especially looking for.  I had wanted to get better photos than those I had in my files and was delighted to find them everywhere.

There were a few plants along the lower end of the trail, but they were everywhere in the woods on the east side of Kinney Lake, often single plants but sometimes in large clumps.  They are immediately recognizable by the single, ground-hugging, glossy leaf and the distinctive white and green flowers.

These are the larger flowered sub-species obtusata.  There is a few-flowered, smaller sub-species that grows only in Alaska.  This subspecies grows in woodland areas, usually in mossy, well-drained locations along the trails and even on top of rocks and old logs.

I've described them in more detail in a previous post:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Platanthera huronensis in the Canadian Rockies

Another orchid we found growing with the Bog Candles and Alaskan Piperias along the Yellowhead Highway was the very common and not very exciting Green Bog Orchis, Platanthera huronensis.  In places it was more abundant than the Bog Candles and we even found plants that appeared to be hybrids of this and the Bog Candles.

The flowers on all the plants we saw were very similar, a whitish green with  the sepals and petals forming a kind of hood over the lip.  The plants ranged in size from a 10-15 cm tall to nearly 60 cm.  The flowers were abundant especially on the taller plants, but did not stand out like the white flowers of the Bog Candles.  We took plenty of pictures, however.