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.

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