Friday, August 3, 2012
Two Twayblades, a Coralroot and a Bog Orchid at Lake Elizabeth.
As we often do when traveling, we arranged our plans for a trip to Spokane on July 18, to include a at least one stop for photography. On this trip we drove up to Lake Elizabeth in the North Cascades near Skyomish and Highway 2. The Forest Service road to Lake Elizabeth has been closed for several years due to washouts, and though we had hiked up to the lake several times, have never been able to drive up. The Forest Service finally has the road repaired and we were able to drive all the way, a distance of six or seven miles.
At the lake there is a poorly maintained trail around the lake that even requires some scrambling over and around fallen trees at the southeast end of the lake, but the area is a good spot to look for orchids and other wildflowers and we were not disappointed on this trip. We had hoped to find the rare Chamisso's Orchid (Platanthera chorisiana), but did not find it even though this is the third time we've looked. It was reported there a number of years ago, but has not been found since, though others have also looked for it.
We did find some old friends, though, two Twayblades, the Northwestern and Western Heart-leaved Twayblades (Listera banksiana and Listera cordata var. nephrophylla), the latter in both its green and red color forms. We also found the Western Coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana), but it was not as abundant as other years. And we found the Northern Green Bog Orchis (Platanthera aquilonis), a plant we had seen two years ago, could not find last year, and now found again in abundance.
The Northwestern Twayblade was just starting to flower. It is a plant around 20 cm tall with a spike of tiny green flowers distinguished by the blackish-green markings on the lip. Like the other Listeras it has two opposite and very beautiful leaves halfway up the stem, though we found one plant with three leaves (shown above).
The Western Heart-leaved Twayblade is a tiny thing with plants as small as 5 cm and no larger than 20 (in this location) and with even smaller 5 to 10 mm green or reddish-green flowers that have a lip split into two narrow segments for half of the length. We found both color forms.
The Northern Green Bog Orchis is one of the many green-flowered bog orchids that are rather difficult to tell apart. The plants we saw were 10 to 50 cm tall, many-flowered, the flowers distinguished by the club-shaped spur. These were growing in every wet spot along the road.
The Western Coralroot is a very common plant in our area, leafless and without chlorophyll and very variable in color. These were a pale lavender with very pale lavender stems. We found them on the east side of the lake where we had found them previously.