Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cypripedium parviflorum in the Canadian Rockies

One of the main reasons for stopping in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia and in Jasper National Park in Alberta whenever we are traveling to Edmonton is to see Cypripedium parviflorum in bloom.  This year, however, we were a little late and almost missed them.

We stopped at three different locations.  At the first they were completely finished, at the second some of the flowers were still good enough to photograph and at the third they were also starting to go by, but still decent, so we did not miss them entirely.

In the third location we know of only a few clumps visible from the road.  In the other two locations they grow by the thousands and it is always a joy to see them.  They are variety pubescens, the Large Yellow Lady's Slipper, distinguished by its larger flowers and faint scent.

These flowers were photographed at the second location near Kinney Lake on the Berg Lake trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park.  There are thousands of these plants there in several different locations but only a few flowers left at the location I visited.

Platanthera unalascensis in the Canadian Rockies

Traveling along the Yellowhead Highway in British Columbia and Alberta we found this common species of native orchid in various locations, often growing along with other orchids.  In one location it was growing with Platanthera dilatata, the Bog Candle, and in another with Platanthera huronensis, the Green Bog Orchis, and Coeloglossum viride, the Long-bracted Green Orchis.

Though it often grows in large clumps the plants we saw were usually just single spikes.  They are easily identified, however, by their short spurt, many flowers, yellow-green color and small lip.  They were almost always in open sunny locations and areas that were quite wet.  The plant is found all across North America and so it was no surprise to find it here also.

Neottia borealis on the Berg Lake Trail

These native orchids are so small that whenever I am taking pictures of them along the trail someone stops and asks what I'm photographing.  In fact on this hike I missed most of them on the way in and only saw them on the way out when I was keeping a closer watch for them.

The flowers are distinguished by the dark green stripe on the lip, but the plants are less than 15 cm tall and are usually hidden by other vegetation.  They tend to grow in darker locations and are also for that reason somewhat difficult to find and even more difficult to photograph.

Neottia borealis, the Northern Twayblade, grows all along the Berg Lake Trail from very near its beginning up to the shores of Berg Lake and is in bloom over a very long period of time.  I enjoy it but can understand the unenthusiastic response of some.

Platanthera stricta along the Yellowhead Highway

The green-flowered Platantheras are especially hard to distinguish and admittedly, only someone who was very interested in the native orchids of the Northwest would even want to try to figure them out.  Platanthera stricta, the Slender Bog Orchis, is distinguished by it inflated spur, visible in the first photo, and by its narrow straight-sided lip.

We kept an eye out for this orchid, knowing we were close to its blooming time, but did not see until late in the evening as we were on our way home.  Then we saw it in abundance along Highway 5, the Yellowhead Highway, south of Valemount and all the way past Blue River where it was growing with Platanthera dilatata, the white-flowered Bog Candle.

In that stretch of highway it seemed to be everywhere, even though we had not found it at all on the east-west section of the highway, Highway 16, from Tete Jaune Cache to Jasper National Park.  There it was replaced by the similar species, Platanthera huronensis, distinguished by its lanceolate (lance-head-shaped) lip, whitish-green color, and cylindrical spur.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amerorchis rotundifolia near Kinney Lake

Small but showy is this little gem of a native orchid.  It is only 15 cm tall, and even where it grows in masses of hundreds of plants would go unnoticed because of its size, but a closer examination shows its lovely spotted, angel- or ballerina-like flowers.

Amerorchis rotundifolia is more closely related to European orchids than to our other North American species, but ranges across Canada and the northern United States and is often abundant where found, though it is considered "rare and local" by some.

In the area around the Kinney Lake campground, a relatively flat area of scrubby open woodland and where both Cypripedium parviflorum and Cypripedium passerinum are abundant, this species is also abundant, growing by the thousands and perhaps even millions.

Where we have found it we have also always found Cypripediums, but in this location it is so abundant that it is impossible to step off the trail without crushing some of the plants.  Many of the flowers were starting to go by, but there were still many in full bloom.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coeloglossum viride near Maligne Lake

Driving up the Maligne Lake Road in Jasper Park in Alberta watching both for wildlife and for wildflowers, we stopped near a steep bank to take pictures of the Wood Lilies which were especially abundant in that location.  While photographing the lilies and stepping carefully through a rather wet and boggy area we noticed some green flowered native orchids and made sure we identified them also.

They were both plants we had seen earlier in the day and in a number of locations, Platanthera huronensis and Piperia unalascensis.and though we took pictures were not that excited about finding them.  among them, however, was one plant which at first appeared to be another P. unalascensis with flwoers that were going past, though something about them caught my eye.

One closer inspection it became clear that they were a native orchid we had not seen before and using our guide we soon identified it as the Long-bracted Green Orchis, Coeloglossum viride var. virescens.  The plants were more of a yellow-green color, the leaves were glossier and the flowers more cupped and crowded on the spike than the other species we had seen.

The most unusual feature and the clue to what these were was the long tongue-like lip with the notch at the end.  On the first spike this lip had turned black on most of the flowers and we still did not realize what we were seeing until we looked at one of the few good flowers under a magnifying glass.  Only then was it really clear that we were seeing something new.

We were quite excited about finding them, and  as as we walked along the bank further up the road began to see more and more of them, most growing up the bank a little ways and some in the shade of the surrounding shrubbery.  In all we found about three dozen plants, some nearly finished flowering and others just beginning to open, but all clearly different from anything else we had seen.

We not only took pictures that evening but drove back up the following morning and took more pictures in the early light with the dew still on the plants.

Cypripedium passerinum at Kinney Lake

Traveling through Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park along the Yellowhead Highway on our way to Edmonton to visit family, we took some extra time and stopped in the area of the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson PP.  My wife had a bad headache and stayed in the car to sleep while I hiked up the trail for about 7 km to Kinney Lake to see which orchids were blooming.

I saw fifteen different native orchids and varieties, but this one, the Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper is still one of my favorites and I was fortunate to find a few of them still in bloom at this late date.  Last year we were a week earlier and they were all finished but a cold and wet spring has delayed everything in the Pacific Northwest, in this case to our advantage.

Many of these lovely orchids can be found in a couple of areas near Kinney Lake and I found again several very large clumps, but only a few flowers that were still perfect.  Many had been ruined by the rain and quite a number were already pollinated and gone by.  In spite of the mosquitoes I managed to get some pictures with the dew still on the flowers.

The flowers are on rather tall spikes but are themselves quite small, surprisingly small, I would think, to someone who had not seen them before.  They are, however, very delicate and though the dorsal sepal often lies forward over the pouch, have beautiful spotting in the pouch and a lovely yellow and red-spotted staminode.  The name Sparrow's-egg fits them beautifully.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Calypso bulbosa at Chiwaukum Creek

On the same day, June10, that we visited Derby Canyon and Plain, Washington, we also hiked at Chiwaukum Creek near Leavenworth.  We found and photographed many different wildflwoers, but were especially delighted to find the Western Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, growing in abundance along the creek.  We found a lot of color variation including a flower that was almost white.  It was also interesting to find them growing in clumps, something we had not seen before with this species.  Whether growing singly or in clumps, however, it remain one of our favorite orchids and can be found over a period of four months as one moves from lower to higher elevations following the snow melt.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cypripedium fasciculatum near Plain

The orchid we were looking for near Plain (see previous post), one of Washington's rarest, was the Brownie or Clustered Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium fasciculatum.  We found it, though only a very few plants which we carefully photographed making sure that we covered our tracks when we were finished, so as to leave no clue we had been there, by way of protecting this rare species.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Corallorhiza maculata near Plain

The same day, June 10th, that we visited Derby Canyon and found the Mountain Lady's Slippers there, we also went on to the area of Plain to look for several orchids.  We found Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, the Western Spotted Coralroot, there also, and have concluded the orchid is nearly ubiquitous in the area of the North Cascades.  These are a few of the pictures we took, though this was not one of the orchids we came to find.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cypripedium montanum in Derby Canyon

On June 10th, returning from Spokane and having stopped early in the morning at Derby Canyon near Peshastin, we hiked the ridge looking for wildflowers and especially the Western Peony, which had already finished blooming.  We photographed some Western Spotted Coralroots and some Lyall's Mariposa Lilies and were driving away when we saw some Mountain Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium montanum) on the bank along the road.  Reparking the car, we spent quite some photographing them before going on.