Saturday, September 10, 2011

Four Piperias in Olympic National Park

Washington has five native Piperias and we saw four of them in Olympic National Park on August 3rd, one in a dwarf form  that is unique to Olympic National Park and to the Hurricane Ridge area of the park.  The five we saw were Piperias candida, the Slender White Piperia, Piperia elegans, the Elegant Piperia, Piperia elongata, the Long-spurred Piperia, and Piperia unalascensis, the Alaskan Piperia, in its dwarf form, P. unalascensis fma. olympica.  The only one we did not see was Piperia transversa, the Flat-spurred Piperia, though I am sure that if we had looked longer and harder we would have found it also.

Piperia elegans, as the name suggests, is the tallest and showiest of these species.  We found it growing in the area of Lake Crescent on the north end of the park, though only a few plants.  It can grow to 100 cm tall and has numerous white flowers that stand out in the more shaded locations in which it grows.

Piperia elongata is named for its long curved spur.  We found it along the Little River Road just outside the park boundaries, growing on a dry, mossy, south-facing bank along the road.  The plants were almost always single and seemed to prefer the steeper areas of the bank on which they were growing.

Piperia unalascensis is the least attractive of the Piperias with its small green flowers, even though they are produced in abundance.  Ordinarily a very tall plant of nearly 80 cm, on Hurricane Ridge it grows in a very exposed alpine location in a dwarf form that is only about 15 cm tall.

Piperia candida was a new species for us.  It is similar to P. unalascensis and used to be included with that species.  It is slightly more attractive, however, because its flowers are white rather than green and its tall spikes stand out among the surrounding vegetation.  These were a bit past their prime.

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