Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fairy Slippers and Twayblades along the Thunder Creek Trail

May 26th my youngest brother was in town and he, my wife and I spent the day hiking in the North Cascades.  Not too many trails are snow-free yet, but the Thunder Creek Tail is at only 1200 feet elevation and has less than 1000 feet of elevation gain the first 7-8 miles and is usually open by mid-May.  It is also a trail where we have found Fairy Slippers in abundance as we found them again this year along with thousands of Heart-leaved Twayblades.

The Fairy Slippers were all the Western variety (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis), which is to be expected in the North Cascades, and were just passing their prime.  There will still plenty of them in good condition, however, and we even found several nice clumps of them.  We began to see them about two and half miles in and found them in their favorite mossy, half-shaded locations all along the trail, usually on the higher side of the trail where the drainage is better.

We also found some Coralroots not yet in bloom along the trail, probably the Western Coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana), but it was the Western Heart-leaved Twayblade (Listera cordata var. nephrophylla) which seemed to be everywhere.  It is not a plant which catches one's attention.  The plant is usually less than six inches tall and the flowers are less than half an inch.  We found both the green and reddish forms, mostly the latter with only a few of the green.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fairy Slippers and Western Coralroots in Washington Park

We have made three or four trips already this year to Washington Park.  It is an hour and a half from where we live near the town of Anacortes and the San Juan Ferries, and is one of our favorite places for wildflowers, for the Madrone trees, for bird-watching and for native orchids.  It is just simply the perfect place for a walk, for photography, and for exploring.

We had already made several trips but went again to see a white Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis fma. nivea) that had been reported by a friend.  We not only found it but found other Fairy Slippers still blooming as well, though many had been pollinated and were turning white, and we found, for the first time, the Western Coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana) blooming there.

The day we went, Thursday, May 3, was rainy, cold and windy, not the best weather for photographs.  We managed to get good photos of the Fairy Slippers which were somewhat protected, but I did not get any good pictures of the Western Coralroots.  All the pictures of them that I am posting here were taken by my wife, who somehow managed to get very good photos in spite of the wind.

Coralroots and Twayblades on Whidbey Island

Saturday, May 19th, was a beautiful, sunny day and the two of us, my wife and I, took the day to visit Whidbey Island and several locations on the island that we were acquainted with.  We went first to the Au Sable Institute south of Coupeville and hiked the woods to the east of the Institute, a rather small area but rich in native orchids.  We were looking for two orchids and found five, though one of the five was finished and two were not in bloom yet.

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis

Goodyera oblongifolia

Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis

We were looking for the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis and found it at the peak of its season.  We were also looking for the much rarer Ozette Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis, but found it a week or two away from blooming.  We also found several Western Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis)  nearly finished, and we found the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, Goodyera oblongifolia, months from blooming.

One orchid we did find on the grounds of the Au Sable Institute, that we really were not looking for, was the reddish form of the Western Heart-Leaved Twayblade, Listera cordata var. nephrophylla fma. rubescens.  This plant stands about a foot tall with two heart-shaped opposite leaves halfway up the stem and with tiny insect-like flowers that are only a cm in size.  We found just a couple plants but no doubt would have found more if we had looked harder.

From Coupeville we headed back north to Deception Pass and there went first to Cornet Bay and Hoypus Hill where we hiked some of the trails looking for the Western Coralroot, Corallorhiza mertensiana, which we found, but which was not yet flowering (my wife found one half-opened flower).  There were thousands of them in the woods and we will have to go back in a few weeks.  We saw from the stems that both the ordinary purple form and the yellowish form were present.

Our last stop was Deception Pass where we climbed Goose Rock and explored some of the trails and the balds at the top.  There, too, along the trails we found some nice stands of the Western Spotted Coralroot, in one clump nearly twenty stems, but with a few stems broken due its proximity to the trail.  Photographing was more and more difficult with the breeze that had come up, however, and so we called it a day and headed home.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Two Coralroots at Sehome Hill Arboretum

Wednesday evening, May 16th, after both of us were finished with the day's duties, my wife and I visited Sehome Hill Arboretum in Bellingham.  The 180 acre city park is not a true arboretum but a hill covered with second growth forest that is fairly rich in native flora.  The area is next to the campus of Western Washington University and the University is partly responsible for the park.  It is laced with trails and we spent several pleasant hours there, wandering around and looking for things to photograph.

Western Spotted Coralroot

Among other wildflowers we found three native orchids, a Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis) that was past its prime, and two Coralroots, the Western Spotted and the Striped Coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis and Corallorhiza striata var. striata).  The former we found in only one location and there only one spike, the other we found in quite a few locations and in one area around a dozen spikes, all of them fresh and newly opened.

Striped Coralroot

Western Fairy Slippers near Yelm

On Saturday we went on our first excursion of the year with the Washington Native Orchid Society to a location near Yelm to see the Fairy Slippers and other plants.  The location is protected and we had to sign papers agreeing that we would not publish any location information along with our pictures.

The Fairy Slippers here were nearly finished, but we did find some in the woods that were still fresh and worth photographing.  One thing we found was a clump growing on a log, something none of us had seen before.  We figured they had been growing at the base of the tree when it fell and continued to grow there.

In the first of these photos you can clearly see the "bulbs" at the base of the stems, less clearly in the second photo.  These bulbs are often damaged and the plant destroyed if the flower is picked, as happened with hundreds of them in another more public location recently.

The flowers in the second picture are differently colored because they are in different stages of development, the two on the right pollinated and fading.  The brightest flower is the freshest or them all, the other unpollinated flower still a light pink.