Monday, June 18, 2012

Western Coralroots at Hoypus Hill

The same day we visited the Au Sable Institute for a second time this season (June 7th) we also visited Hoypus Hill for a second time, looking for the Western Coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana) there.  We had found it on our first visit, but it was not in bloom.  This time it was in bloom everywhere.

We found several color varieties, distinguished especially by the color of the stem, though the flowers also vary somewhat in color.  The ordinary variety has stems that vary from a very dark to a lighter reddish purple, but there is a lighter variety (forma pallida) that has stems that are almost white.

We also found one plant of a pale yellow-stemmed variety.  There is no name I know of for this form, but it was very distinctive, though it only had a couple of flowers still blooming.  Interestingly, these color forms grow among each other and apparently interbreed since there are many intermediate shades.

These plants are monotropic and achlorphyllous, that is, they are without chlorophyll and live off decaying material in the soil.  They are often found, therefore, on dark forest floors where little else grows, something I've tried to convey in my photos.

For us that meant that photography was very difficult.  The combination of low light and a slight breeze made it almost impossible to get any depth of field in our pictures and meant, too, that many of the pictures we took were out of focus.  As is often the case, my wife did better than I did under these trying circumstances.


  1. LOVE your photos and descriptions Ron! Thanks for creating this site!

    Hoypus is one of my favorite places on earth! I live only 15 minutes away. Lots of coral root Indian pipe, orchids and lilies in bloom at DPSP and locally at other parks too!

    1. We live over an hour away but go there often. This post shows only a small fraction of the color variation in these Coralroots. Too much to see and too little time.