Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Platanthera chorisiana on Vancouver Island
On July 21, four of us, Tom Nelson, a native orchid enthusiast from New York, Dr. Hans Roemer, a friend of Dr. Roemer I know only as Ryan, and myself, went to a high altitude bog on Vancouver Island looking for a very tiny and rare native orchid, Chamisso's Orchid or Platanthera chorisiana. The trip had been arranged by Tom, who was on a cross-country trek in search of native orchids
Tom had contacted Dr. Roemer, knowing that he had found this rare orchid on Vancouver Island some years previously, and Dr. Roemer not only agreed to take us out, but went out a few weeks prior to our outing to make sure the orchids were there. He is a botanist and conservationist with the BC government and an endless source of knowledge of the ecology and plants of BC.
I took the ferry across to Vancouver Island the evening before our trek and drove the last little distance the following morning to meet the others in downtown Victoria. Dr. Roemer drove us several hours west of Victoria and west of the town of Sooke and took us up a logging road to the a bog at about 2000 feet of elevation (700 meters), where we would be hiking.
While he and Tom were getting boots on and gear together, Ryan and I began exploring the bog right at the roadside and Ryan immediately found several of the plants we were looking for mixed with two other orchid species, Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata (the Bog Candle) and Platanthera stricta (the Slender Bog Orchis). These were photographed before we continued our hike.
Under Dr. Roemer's leadership we found our way through several miles of bog, that all looked much the same, but with which he was obviously familiar. Everywhere we wen there was evidence of bears, scat, some if it very fresh, and Skunk Cabbage that had been dug up and its roots eaten, but we saw no actual bears, though we kept a close watch for them, at least I did.
At the end of the trek we found an area around a stream where Dr. Roemer had previously discovered Chamisso's Orchid, and the location that he had pinpointed on his GPS. There we found around a dozen of the plants, usually just single plants, often obscured by the surrounding vegetation and scattered over quite a wide area, but usually on slightly drier ground and in rather protected areas.
We probably could have found other plants, but we had opportunity to take as many photos as we wanted, and when finished made our way back, stopping on a low hill for lunch along the way. Again, under Dr. Roemer's guidance we made our way back without incident, though I would have been completely and forever lost on my own.