Saturday, June 22, 2013

Eleventh Week of the Native Orchid Season - Three Coralroots and Two Neottias

June 16-22

Just one brief excursion this week to a trail in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where I knew I could find the Early Coralroots, Corallorhiza trifida, blooming.  I found the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, and the Western Coralroot, Corallorhiza mertensiana, as well and two Neottias, the Western Heart-leaved Twayblade, Neottia cordata var. nephrophylla, and the Northwestern Twayblade, Neottia banksiana or caurina.

The Early Coralroot, Corallorhiza trifida, is, all other things being equal, one of the earliest orchids to bloom in the spring, often blooming with the Fairy Slippers.  But spring comes late in the mountains and the only sites I know for this species are in the mountains, so we are well into the native orchid season before we see these in bloom.  It is a small plant, usually less than 30 cm with 1 cm flowers, the smallest and hardest to find of all the Coralroot species that grow in the area.

The Western Coralroot, Corallorhiza mertensiana, grows in abundance at a slightly lower elevation and in drier and darker areas and is found in its usual wide range of colors.  I found it in colors that ranged from a deep pink through off-white and tan, and even some spikes that were pale yellow with nearly white flowers, not quite the alba form of the species but very close.  It  is always a delight to see this species in all its different color forms, and it seemed more abundant this year.

The Western Spotted Coralroots I found were just beginning to bloom and all seemed to be the brown stemmed form, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. intermedia.  The plants were also very small, as were the flowers - not nearly so robust as others we had seen earlier in the year - but perhaps that has something to do with location and elevation.  There were a few Coralroots with reddish stems that seemed more robust but they were not yet blooming.

The Western Heart-leaved Twayblade, Neottia cordata var. nephrophylla, was blooming in the same area as the Western Coralroots.  This is a very common species and often carpets open and sunny areas, but was not nearly that abundant in this location. There is a reddish form of this species but I found only plants with green flowers.  I had found it at lower elevations earlier in the season but it was already finished flowering and so I did not take photos.

I also found one plant of the Northwestern Twayblade, Neottias banksiana (old name: Listera caurina).  A little later in the season, it, too, can be found along every trail in the area, but it was nice to see one plant blooming early.  Like Listera cordata, it is a small plant with small flowers, the plants all less than 15 cm and the flowers around 1 cm in size, not plants that are quickly noticed, especially when one is looking for other things.  I may, therefore, have missed some.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tenth Week of the Native Orchid Season - Phantom Orchids, Two Coralroots and Mountain Lady's Slippers

June 9-15

One trip only this week and that a bit hurried since we had a grandson and friend with us and had to keep them entertained while trying to take photographs.  The weather was not very cooperative either with a lot of rain and cool weather, but we did get so see some of our native orchids.

The first stop was in the Columbia River gorge where we hiked to see the Phantom Orchids, Cephalanthera austiniae, and the Spotted and Vreeland's Coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata and Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii) in bloom.

The Phantom Orchid is the only species of its genus found here in North America.  The other species are all Eurasian.  It is also the only species in its genus that is mycotrophic, without leaves or chlorophyll, and though quite rare is found in abundance at the site we visited.

In the same area we did find some Vreeland's Coralroots still blooming but most of the Coralroots were finished there.  We looked for the Striped Coralroot which we had found there in the past but found none. It has larger and more open flowers than Vreeland's.

We also found in that area two color forms of the Spotted Coralroot, the red-stemmed form, Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata fma. rubra, and the yellow-stemmed form, Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata fma. flavida, the latter quite rare and hard to find.

On our way home we visited a site on east slopes of the Cascades where hundreds of Mountain Lady's Slippers, Cypripedium montanum, are blooming.  I had been there several weeks earlier and had found the dark forms blooming, but not the flowers that are more greenish.