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.


  1. So many calypso orchids! I never get tired of seeing your images of this remarkable plant. It's about at the very top of my 'life orchid list' but just can't seem to find the time or opportunity to see them. Maybe next year...

  2. I never get tired of seeing the Calypsos! The high point of the year, though, was the all white one we found in Washington Park. Hopefully no one destroyed it and we can see it again next year.

  3. Best sighting I had was in the Longlac Ontario area. A colony seen stood fully 12 inches tall on thick purple stems with leaves under like Aplectrum...Probably a new record size for the species and I have never seen the like since.

  4. Wow! Sounds like a great find. We are just back from a trip and saw a stand of about 8 stems but they weren't that large. Probably the last of the season, too.