Saturday, July 28, 2012
White Bog Orchis and Alaskan Piperia on the Old Blewett Road
Our last stop on our Oregon and California trip was in Washington. We followed Highway 97 through much of Oregon, across the Columbia River into Washington, through the Yakima Valley, across Umtanum and Manastash Ridges back into the Cascades.
We left the highway near Swauk and followed the Old Blewett Road for ten miles as it wound through the mountains west of the highway. The road is not maintained and we had to avoid fallen rocks and bushes growing out over the road, but the drive was ten miles of delight.
We were looking for a stand of Mountain Lady's Slippers which we did not find. They were probably finished blooming by the time we looked for them, but we did find two other orchids, the Tall White Northern Bog Orchis, Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata, and the Alaskan Piperia, Piperia unalascensis.
We found the former in a wet area along and near the top of the road and the later further down on some sandy banks. Perhaps attracted by their scent there were several different kinds of butterflies feeding on Bog Orchids, including a Ti9ger Swallowtail and several smaller species.
Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata is notable for its beautiful white flowers and lovely fragrance and is always a delight to find though it is common in our area during midsummer. It is distinguished from its two other varieties by the length of the spur, in this case, somewhat longer than the lip.
The Alaskan Piperias are less showy than the Bog Orchids and are also common though we do not find them so often in our area. Their small flowers are green and though they have many flowers per spike are showy only when found in large clumps. We found only single spikes scattered on the hillsides.