Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Native Orchids in the Northern California Siskiyous


July 9-12 was our big trip for the summer; down along the Oregon coast, into northern California to see the Redwoods and a day in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and southern Oregon for some orchid hunting, though we were also looking for Cobra Lilies and other wildflowers that we had not seen before.

The Siskiyous are part of the Klamath Mountains and are a  wonderful area with a unique flora that is due to its serpentine outcrops and soils rich in magnesium, nickel and chromium.  We spent a day in them and most of the day exploring the Knopki Creek Road in northern California looking for orchids there.

We drove nearly 40 miles on forest service roads, many of them very rough, but found all that we were looking for and more, including two orchid species that we had not seen before, one the strikingly beautiful California Lady's Slipper and the other the rather prosaic Few-flowered Rein Orchis.

These two orchids are often found in serpentine areas, the Lady's Slipper exclusively in such areas, and are often associated with the Cobra Lily, a carnivorous plant.  We found all three growing together in several different places and spent hours photographing them, but they were not all we found.


Early on in our explorations we found a few Phantom Orchids, Cephalanthera austiniae, on a bank with some beautiful pink lilies that we were not able to identify.  These orchid are rather uncommon, but we seem to have seen them everywhere this summer.  They are so unusual they are always good to see.




The California Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium californicum, is found only in serpentine areas and reaches the northern limits of its range in the Siskiyous.  It has small flowers but makes up for that by producing an abundance of blooms, as many as twenty per spike, the most of any native Lady's Slipper.




The plants grow to 120 cm tall, but those we saw were shorter, none more than about 75 cm.  The flowers themselves are 10 cm, variable in color from yellowish green through green and bronze, most of them with pink markings at the opening of the lip, a few without any markings.








The Few-flowered Rein Orchis, Platanthera sparsiflora, was always found growing with them, though we also found it growing by itself in the dampest areas and often in large clumps.  It grows to 75 cm, with 2 cm flowers, green and distinctive in shape with many per spike in spite of its name.





 The green flowered Platantheras can be difficult to identify but this should not be.  Its flowers are hooded, the dorsal sepal and petals forming the hood, with the long lip and spur point down beneath the hood and the rest of the flower folded back forming a bearded, cowled monk's head.


It was nice to see two new orchids and one old friend, and we hope to revisit the area another time and do some more orchid hunting in this amazing and wonderful area.  In fact, we spent so much time in this one area that we had little time left for exploring in other areas both in California and Oregon.

6 comments:

  1. I'm growing a bunch of tissue cultured seedlings of Cypripedium californicum. Your pictures are inspiring to look at as I wait for *years* for them to bloom :)

    These are such great plants- and you take really incredible photos!

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    1. Thanks for looking and commenting. I hope your seedlings do well. Are they for sale or do you grow them for your own use.

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  2. I am in cave junctionJune 22. Can you suggest any sites I might photograph any native orchids blooming now ?

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    1. I am away from home and won't be home again until the 30th of June. I do not have any records or information with me, but look up a Forest Service road just south of the Oregon-California border that runs east into the mountains. Also check Whiskey Creek and the Eight Million Dollar Highway(I have no directions but both are in the area you suggested). I don't have dates either but Cyp. californicum, Platanthera sparsiflora, and Epipactis gigantea grow in that area. At the Eight Million Dollar Highway look for the Epipactis where the bridge crosses the Rogue River.

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  3. My last sighting was showy lady slipper at Gott Fen oh. Last weekend. Thanks

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    1. Nice find! Would love to see it.

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