Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spiranthes romanzoffiana in Yellowstone National Park

We visited Yellowstone National Park for a day on our way to Michigan to see family.  We arrived at the west entrance early in the morning and were informed that road repairs were being done and that there was as much as a five hour delay to get past the road work.  Since it would have taken many hours to drive around to one of the other entrances and even longer to get back to the highway we had left behind we decided to press on.

After driving several miles into the park we found the traffic back up ahead of us as far as we could see and after waiting for a while we found that every half-hour or so the traffic would move about a mile ahead.  Every time we stopped after moving we got out of the car and explored the area, a very nice area of the park that follows the peaceful Madison River.  We both had our cameras and thus passed the time.

At one stop we found this native orchid growing the grass along the river's edge and were quite excited to find it so far away from any location we had previously discovered.  Later in the day, however, after getting free of the traffic and driving up the west side of the north loop we found the orchid several more times, in some of the geyser basins growing right in the area of the geyser run-off and later along the Gibbon River.

The orchid is one we've seen several times in Washington and that is my justification for posting it here.  It is a small plant, usually less than 30 cm tall with cream colored flowers that are braided around the flower spike, giving the genus its common name, Ladies' Tresses.  This particular species is the Hooded Ladies' Tresses, and is quite common in our area and further east, but always very beautiful.

As always we found the orchid growing in wetter areas, near streams, in run-off areas of the geysers, in wet, almost boggy meadows.  And, once we knew that it was blooming in the park, we were able to spot it in wetter areas as we drove through the park.The photo of the plants growing near a stream was taken in an area we spotted from the car window.

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