Friday, June 3, 2011

Calypso bulbosa in the Columbia Gorge

Hiking in the Columbia Gorge in the area of Horsetail Falls we found the Western Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis) growing in various locations along the trail.  Interestingly, in the steeper areas it seemed always to be on the northwest corner of the outcrops.  We saw it so often in that location that we began to look for it there and found it in places we had previously missed.

In those locations they were often half hidden under other vegetation (and thus known as the "Hider of the North"), but the other location where we found them was different.  That location was in an open mixed woodland, quite level where the plants got only a very little bit of sun and where there was almost no other vegetation.  It was in that location that we began to find Listera cordata as well though we we tended to find more of it in damper, shadier locations.

Horsetail Falls

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Corallorhiza maculata in Washington Park

I recently put up a post about the Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, but found them again at Washington Park on Fidalgo Island, and found both varieties there, though in different locations.  The differences between these two varieties, though, are negligible, and it is sometimes the case that it is difficult to distinguish them from each other.  In this cae, though, they seemed fairly different.

The Spotted Coralroot (below), Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata, has a lip which is more or less rectangular.  The Western Spotted Coralroot (above), Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, has a lip which is more or less round on the end.  Paul Martin Brown says that they are separate in their flowering times, but in this case they were both at the peak of their flowering when I saw them.

The park is on a rocky outcrop of Fidalgo Island and has a one-lane road that runs around its perimeter.  I walked the road against traffic (of which there was not much) about a third of the way and then took to the trails t along the cliffs and through the woods on the edge of the park.  I found the first variety under the trees along the road on the east side and the second along the trails on the south side.

As can be seen from the pictures there definitely are two different lip shapes, but I really wonder if they are actually different varieties.  Perhaps, though, I am just mistaking plants of the Western Spotted Coralroot with a less rounded lip for the other variety, but in that case it seems to me that the two so shade into each other that they do not warrant consideration as separate varieties.

I am not enough of a botanist, however, to know for sure, and certainly enjoyed seeing these unique plants even if my identification is not quite correct.  They are remarkable plants, not only for their unusual colors, but also because they often spring up several feet away from where last year's dried flower spikes are still standing, and not always in the same numbers as the previous year.

Corallorhiza maculata on Whidbey Island

On our recent camping trip son Edward and I made a quick side trip to the grounds of the Pacific Rim campus of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies.  We went to check on the population of the Ozette Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis) that is found on their property, only the second known location for this rare native orchid species, Washington's only endemic orchid.

We found the Ozette Coralroots only just starting to put up their flower spikes, but found the more common variety of the species, the Western Spotted Coralroot (C. maculata var. occidentalis) in full bloom along with the Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa).  I had never seen such large clumps of them, nor so many of them in one location before.  They were everywhere.

We found them all through the woods, mostly growing as a few spikes in each location, but near the edge of the woods and just a bit away from the road there were hundreds of spikes growing in dense clumps.  We had time for a few pictures, somewhat difficult in the fading light and breeze, and the majority of these pictures were taken in that location.

As is evident from the pictures we found both the brown-stemmed and the red-stemmed forms of this species and in one location in the woods we found a single stem whose flowers seemed to be of the other variety, maculata.

For more information on this species check my previous post on this blog which describes this orchid: