Monday, July 4, 2011
Corallorhiza mertensiana at Hoypus Hill.
Corallorhiza mertensiana, the Western Coralroot, has the most delicate flowers of the Coralroots native to the Pacific Northwest. They look like tiny purple (or green) birds in flight, and because they are so fine and tiny they are often overlooked.
We visited Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island June 4th and again on June 12th to see them. We found both the yellow-stemmed and purple-stemmed varieties and found them in abundance in the locations where we looked for them.
They are interesting in that they are almost always found in very dry locations under rather heavy forest cover with almost no other surrounding vegetation. They grow through the litter of dead branches and twigs on the forest floor and receive only a minimum of sunlight.
Because they are saprophytic they do not need the sunlight to produce their food through photosynthesis, but it is nevertheless always a bit surprising to find them where nothing else seems to grow. In the shade their purple color almost glows.