Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The End of Another Season (2012)

And so we come to the end of another season of orchid hunting and to the last post of the year.  There remain three species native to the state of Washington that we still have not seen, though all of them are rare to very rare here.  They are Wister's Coralroot, Corallorhiza wisteriana, the Broad-lipped Twayblade, Listera convallarioides, for which we have a location, but missed it this past summer, and the natural hybrid, the Ute Ladies' Tresses, Spiranthes diluvialis.  These are at the head of our list for next summer, and we do have a couple of locations for the Ute Ladies' Tresses, but both are outside of our own state.

It was good summer.  We saw and photographed many familiar species in locations we had already visited and in new locations and we saw three new species, Cypripedium californicum, the California Lady's Slipper, and Goodyera repens, the Lesser Rattlesnake Orchis, neither of which are native to Washington, and Platanthera sparsiflora, the Few-flowered Rein Orchis.

Cypripedium californicum

Goodyera repens and Platanthera sparsiflora

We found one important variety that we had not seen before, Vreeland's Coralroot, Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii (top photo), and several significant forms of common species, the white form of the Western Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis fma. nivea, the yellow-stemmed form of the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. aurea.

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. aurea

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis fma. nivea

We also found locations for the unspotted form of the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. immaculata and a Washington location for Chamisso's Orchid, Platanthera chorisiana, but both were nearly finished flowering and we were unable to get any really decent pictures.  In all it was an excellent season and one to be remembered.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Orchids of Washington Park

Washington Park lies on a rocky outcrop of Fidalgo Island and is a city park under the jurisdiction of Anacortes, the only city on Fidalgo Island.  One would not expect a city park to be a good place to find orchids, but this park, though heavily used is large enough (220 acres) and wild enough to support a wonderful variety of wildlife and wildflowers including numerous wild orchids.

We have found five different orchid species there that bloom over an extended period from April until August in the many trips we have made there.  The park includes a two-mile drive and we usually walk the road looking for orchids in the clearings along the road, but we also walk the many trails along the cliffs.  The different orchid species we have found in this wonderful park are:

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, the Western Fairy Slipper
We've found not only the normal form but the white form as well, forma nivea, and Washington Park is the only place we've ever found this rare form.  These bloom in abundance in the park around the end of April.

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, the Western Spotted Coralroot
This begins to bloom in the park as the Fairy Slippers are fading and is almost always the brown stemmed form, forma intermedia.  The unspotted yellow form of this species is also found in the park.

Corallorhiza mertensiana, the Western Coralroot
This also begins to bloom as the Fairy Slippers are fading but does not bloom over as long a period as the Western Spotted Coralroot.  The park, however, has the darkest forms we've seen of this species.

Goodyera oblongifolia, the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis
This fills the gap between the Coralroots and the last of the five species.  It blooms most of the summer and is by far the most common orchid in the park.  It is notable for its beautifully patterned leaves as well.

Platanthera transversa, the Flat-spurred Piperia
This is the last of the park's orchids to bloom, blooming after everything is nearly finished.  We see its leaves in the spring but when it blooms the leaves are gone.  It also is quite abundant in certain areas,

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Northwest's Two Goodyeras

There are two Goodyeras or Rattlesnake Orchids that grow here in the Pacific Northwest, but only one of them is found in Washington.  In our area the other reaches the southern limit of its range in British Columbia, well north of Washington, though it is found in Montana, the Rockies and the Appalachians to the east of us.

The larger of the two species is Goodyera oblongifolia, the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, giant only in comparison to its smaller relative.  This grows to 45 cm tall and has around 20-30 greenish-white flowers.  The leaves can be plain with a single silver mid-vein or can be beautifully patterned in silver.  This latter is forma reticulata.  The leaves are 5-10 cm long and former a rosette on the ground.  The species is very common and we rarely go on hikes without seeing it in or out of flower.

The smaller relative is Goodyera repens, the Lesser Rattlesnake Orchis.  This species is found also in Europe and Asia, but is not found in Washington, though it ranges further south in the states to the east of us.  It is shorter, about 20 cm tall, with fewer flowers, 10-20 in all, and with smaller leaves, only 4-5 cm long.  The leaves grow in a rosette at the ground and are often beautifully patterned as well.  The flowers are a clear white and are much hairier (pubescent) than the other larger species.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Washington's Five Piperias

Here in the Pacific Northwest and up into Canada there are five Piperia species, though two others have been reported periodically from Washington and Oregon, but without verification.  The Piperias have been separated from the genera Habenaria and Platanthera (more recently they have been recombined with Platanthera).  They share a tuber-like root, very slender spikes and flowers with similar-looking lips and petals.  The leaves of all these species almost always wither around the time of flowering, so that the flower spikes appear as leafless stems.  The two unverified species are Piperia leptopetala, the Lace Orchid, and Piperia michaelii, Michael's Piperia.  The five species known to grow in our area are as follows:

Platanthera (Piperia) unalascensis, the Alaskan Piperia.
This is the most common of the five Piperias and has the widest range, growing from Alaska south to California and east across southern Canada and the northern United States into the Great Lakes region.  It is also, in my opinion, the least attractive of the five species, with small green or greenish-yellow flowers.  It can grow in large clumps and to a height of over 80 cm, and the flowers, though numerous are less than 1 cm in size and have a tiny spur that is barely visible.

There is a dwarf form of this species, forma olympica, that grows only in one location in the Olympic Mountains (these last two pictures show this form).

Platanthera ephemerantha (Piperia candida), the Slender White Piperia.
Piperia candida has been recently separated from Piperia unalascensis and the flower color is the most obvious difference.  Its flowers are white instead of green, though there are also differences in the shape of the spur and in the fact that this species has a day-time though faint fragrance.  In plant size, flower count, bloom time and habitat it is is like the Alaskan Piperia, but in our experience is somewhat more rare than its green cousin.

Platanthera (Piperia) elegans, the Elegant Piperia.
The Elegant Piperia is rightly named and the most attractive of the five species.  The plants can be very large, over 80 cm with numerous, tightly packed flowers that are somewhat larger than those of the previous two species, but still smaller than 1 cm.  It, too, has a faint fragrance but a much longer spur, that is nearly 1 cm.  Is is quite easily identifiable and cannot really be mistaken for any of the other species.  The tall plants with their white, long-spurred flowers are distinctive

Platanthera (Piperia) elongata, the Long-spurred Piperia.
This and the following species are quite easily confused.  In plant size, number of flowers, size of flowers and length of spurs they are very similar.  The plants are 60 cm or less and they have numerous flowers more or less crowded on the stems.  This species, however, has flowers that are dark green with a spur that curves downward, often paralleling the stem.  The flowers, though small and less than 1 cm in size are quite attractive with their long, 1.5 cm spurs.

Platanthera (Piperia) transversa, the Flat-spurred Piperia.
The Flat-spurred Piperia is named not for the shape of of the spur but for its position, one of the distinguishing characteristics.  The flowers are the same size as Piperia elongata and the spurs the same length, but the spur is held horizontally and in some cases even curves upward a bit.  That and the white flowers with a green or yellowish green mid-vein to each of the segments separates this from the Long-spurred Piperia.