Thursday, June 14, 2012

Two Coralroots at the Au Sable Institute

On June 7th we made a second trip to Whidbey Island and to the Au Sable Institute near Coupeville.  We went to see the Ozette Coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata var. ozettensis) in bloom and found them just starting to bloom, but also found the Spotted Coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata) in full bloom.  It was a dark and rainy day and there was a wind blowing as well, so photography was incredibly difficult, but we managed to get good pictures of both species.

The Ozette Coralroot is considered a variety of the Spotted Coralroot though it looks very different and is entirely without spots.  It was first described in 2001 from collections made on the Olympic Peninsula and has been found since in several locations on Whidbey Island and more recently on Vancouver Island and on mainland British Columbia.  It is not endemic to Washington, therefore, as first thought, nor is it as rare as it first appeared to be.  Rare or not, it is very beautiful.

The Spotted Coralroot is found across the United States and Canada and is the least spectacular of all the Coralroots in our area and also, with the similar Western Spotted Coralroot, the most common.  These were blooming in impressive clumps in the woods of the Au Sable Institute and in a few cases they were in the same area as the Ozette Coralroots.  We found them again at Cornet Bay and Hoypus Hill and in Washington Park, but did not take more pictures.

For the first time, as a result of this trip, I have gotten clear in my mind the difference between the Spotted and Western Spotted Coralroots.  I had known that there was a difference in the shape of the lip, the Western Spotted having a lip whose midlobe has rounded sides, in contrast to the Spotted, with its straight sides, but  it was still hard at times to differentiate the two varieties.  This trip showed me that there are other differences as well.

We had made an earlier trip by several weeks to the Au Sable Institute and found the Western Spotted Coralroots blooming.  They were all finished this time, but the ordinary Spotted were in full bloom.  It was evident that the flowers of the latter variety are usually more cupped than the other.  Not just the lip but the shape of the flowers and the bloom times distinguish them, therefore, though unless one sees both varieties in the same location it can still be difficult to tell them apart.

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