Monday, June 25, 2012

Coralroots Everywhere at Dog Mountain

June 12th we spent in the Columbia River Gorge hunting for native orchids, for two especially, both of which we found.  We visited three places there.  We went to Catherine Creek first of all to check on a rare (for Washington state) species of Spiranthes or Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes porrifolia).  We found it but it was a long way from blooming.  We also visited a familiar site looking for Phantom Orchids (Cephalanthera austiniae) which we found in abundance along with several other of the orchids described in this post.

We spent a fair amount of time at both sites, and took a lot of of photos, but then had to decide what we would do for the rest of the day.  The weather was dark with occasional rain showers but we finally decided to go on and hike at Dog Mountain, another place we had never visited before, but where we hoped to find more Phantom Orchids.  Wondering if we had made the wrong decision, we started up the rather steep trail and soon found that we had made the right decision.  There were orchids everywhere!

There were Phantom Orchids growing everywhere.  The species is rather rare, but certainly was not rare at this location.  We must have seen several thousand of them.  And, though, we had seen them earlier in the day, it was exciting to see them again and in such abundance.  They are always a pleasure to find with their rather weird bone-white leafless stems and flowers appearing out of nowhere.  Previously we had always found them in darker forests, but here they were growing in brighter locations.

Cephalanthera austiniae

That was not all we found, however.  We also found two different species of Coralroots, two varieties of each species, and several different color forms of each.  We found the Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata) and its local variety, the Western Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis), these two in three strikingly different color forms, var. maculata fma. flavida (yellow-stemmed), var. occidentalis fma. intermedia (brown-stemmed) and var. occidentalis fma. punicea (red-stemmed).

Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata fma. flavida

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. intermedia

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. punicea

We also found the Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata var. striata) in two color forms, the ordinary red-purple form, and a paler, almost pink form.  In addition we found the other rare variety of this species, Vreeland's Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii).  Everywhere we looked there were Coralroots and every one seemed to be different.  The weather was poor (it began to rain hard when we got back to the car), but it was an amazing experience and is a place we will certainly have to visit again.

Corallorhiza striata var. striata fma. fulva and ordinary form

Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii

Two of these Coralroots were new for us, the yellow-stemmed form of the Western Spotted Coralroot and the Vreeland's Striped Coralroot.  We saw them at two different locations, but both were abundant at Dog Mountain.  Both had been on my "must-see" list for quite some time, and finding both was a big "extra for the day, and well worth suffering through some inclement weather and some long hours of driving (the Columbia Gorge is a five to six hour drive for us) and since we had come from Spokane we had a lot of hours on the road.