Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sixteenth Week of the Native Orchid Season - Platantheras, Neottias and Epipactis

July 21-27

Three rather brief excursions this week, the first to Lake Elizabeth in the North Cascades near Skykomish, Washington.  This is a favorite place for native orchids, but the trip was somewhat disappointing, probably because the season has been early and the summer very dry.  Not only were there only a few species and those sparse, but many of the plants had aphids, almost certainly due to the dry weather.

I found Neottia banksiana (caurina), the Northwestern Twayblade and Neottia cordata var. nephrophylla, the Western Heart-leaved Twayblade, the former still in bloom but the latter nearly finished and not very many plants of either species, far fewer than previous years, especially of Neottia cordata.  Nor did I not find any of the purple-flowered form of that species, Neottia cordata var. nephrophylla, fma. rubescens.

Neottia banksiana

Neottia cordata var. nephrophylla

There were two Bog Orchids blooming, Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata, the Tall White Northern Bog Orchis, and Platanthera stricta, the Slender Bog Orchis.  Notably missing were both Platanthera huronensis, the Green Bog Orchis, and Platanthera aquilonis, the Northern Green Bog Orchis, both of which we've found there previously.  Also missing was Platanthera dilatata var. leuchostachys with its very long spur.

Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata

Platanthera stricta

I did find Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hodded Ladies'-tresses, but they are a later bloomer and were only just beginning to put up flower spikes.  They too appeared to be fewer in number than last year, though I may have missed them hidden in the sedges and grasses.  I also found a couple plants of the Western Coralroot, Corallorhiza mertensiana, but they were nearly finished and again there were only a few plants to be found.

Later in the week I was able to make a second trip to a location near Seattle and to two locations in Larrabee State Park in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham.  I was looking for Epipactis helleborine, the Broad-leaved Helleborine, a non-native and for the white form of this species especially.  I found the species in all the places I looked but could not find the white (alba) form, though I was told it was there to be found.  I did find the green form, fma. viridens.

Epipactis helleborine fma. viridens

While looking for the Epipactis in Larrabee, I also found a few plants of Platanthera (Piperia) elegans, the Elegant Piperia near the coast.  They were quite small, only a foot tall (30 cm).  This species can grow to three feet (100 cm) tall, but their exposed location, I am sure, explains their small size.  They are, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the Piperias.  That was a reminder to me to look for the other Platantheras (Piperias) which bloom about the same time.

That I did with my wife on Saturday on our way to a picnic.  We left early and explored Goose Rock near Deception Pass and found three species of Platanthera (Piperia) blooming there, Platanthera (Piperia) elegans ssp. elegans, the Elegant Piperia, Platanthera (Piperia) transvera, the Flat-spurred Piperia, with its horizontal spur, and Platanthera (Piperia) elongata with its tiny green flowers and long, curved spur.  Platanthera (Piperia) elegans was a bit past its peak, but the other two species were in good form.

Platanthera (Piperia) elegans ssp. elegans

Platanthera (Piperia) elongata

Platanthera (Piperia) transversa

Along with the Piperias, the ubiquitous Goodyera oblongifolia, the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, was beginning to bloom.  This species is everywhere in the northwest and we rarely hike anywhere without seeing its leaves, and later in the summer its flowers.  Its name is a bit misleading since the plant is only a foot tall (30 cm), but in comparison to the Lesser Rattlesnake Orchis, Goodyera repens, it is quite large.  It is everywhere at Goose Rock.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Weeks of the Native Orchid Season - a Few Platantheras, a Non-native and an Elusive Rarity

These three weeks were spent traveling cross-country to a youth camp and to visit family and there were few opportunities for orchid hunting, so I've combined the three weeks and the few orchids we saw into one post.

 June 30-July 6

This week was spent driving to a young people's camp in eastern Washington and then to Yellowstone National Park, followed by a long and hurried drive across country to Michigan and Indiana to see family.  Not much time to go orchid hunting and not many orchids to find except some or Bog Orchids.

Platanthera stricta, the Slender Bog Orchis, was at the peak of its blooming season in the Cascades and I made several stops to photograph them.  This is a rather nondescript species with small green flowers that is so common we do not always even take the time to photograph it.

We also found Platanthera dilatata in the North Cascades and again in Yellowstone National Park.  The variety we found growing in the North Cascades, however, was Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata, distinguished by a spur that is approximately the same length as the lip.

In Yellowstone we found that variety as well as Platanthera dilatata var. leucostachys, distinguished by its very short spur, very much shorter than the lip.  This species is very common wherever it is found and though beautiful and fragrant is another species that we do not always take time to photograph.

In one area, growing with the Bog Candles, Platanthera dilatata var. albiflora, the  were a number of plants of Platanthera huronensis, the Green Bog Orchis.  The two speciers look quite similar but the Green Bog Orchis is different in color and the shape of the lip.

We also found one plant of Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hooded Ladies' Tresses, another common Yellowstone species, in bloom near one of the hot springs, probably encouraged to bloom early by the heat of the spring since this species usually does not bloom until August.

 July 7-13

This second week was spent with family including a few days camping on the shores of Lake Michigan.  We found one orchid which seemed to be everywhere in the sandy areas along the lake and which was just starting to bloom, Epipactis helleborine, the Broad-leaved Helleborine.

This orchid is not actually a native, but a European import which has spread across the northern United States and southern Canada and in some areas has the status of a weed.  We have found it here in Washington in several location, but it was even more common is western Michigan.

July 14-20

The first part of this week was spent with family and the latter part of the week driving home, so there was almost no opportunity for orchid hunting.  On the last leg of our trip, however, we caught up with some of the members of the Washington Native Orchid Society for a hike in the Cascades.

A member of Washington Rare Care was along to show us a location for the tiny and rather inconspicuous but rare, Platanthera chorisiana, Chamisso's Orchid.  A long and difficult hike and a lot of bouldering and walking on snow brought us to the location where we found only one plant just blooming.