Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chamisso's Orchid (Platanthera chorisiana)

Platanthera chorisiana is one of the rarest orchids of the Northwest, and also one of the tiniest and hardest to find.  It grows in high altitude bogs and we had looked for it unsuccessfully in several reported locations in Washington and finally saw it for the first time on Vancouver Island.

The plants we saw were all near 15 cm tall with tiny green 3 mm flowers that do not open widely and are self-pollinating.  The plants had 6-12 flowers per spike and tiny spurs that were shorter in length than the flowers, but with the nectar visible inside.

They were always in slightly shady and drier locations, often on the raised ground around the base of a tree and on the north side of the tree,  They were almost always found as single plants and often were completely hidden by the other vegetation.

The plants generally had 2 or three leaves at the base of the plant and a slender flower spike, and seem always to be few in number.  The species ranges from Alaska through coastal British Columbia to Northern Washington and is also found in Asia.

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