Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Twelfth Week of the Native Orchid Season (1) - Amerorchis, Platanthera, Cypripedium and Coeloglossum

June 23-29

This week we traveled to Edmonton to see our new granddaughter, born June 22nd.  We left early enough that we could make a number of stops on the way for some orchid hunting, three stops in all besides some unscheduled stops along the road to photograph the millions of Platantheras or Bog Orchis that are blooming there at this time of the year.

We went by way of the Yellowhead Highway through British Columbia, first north and then east through Mount Robson Provincial Park and then continuing east through Jasper National Park in Alberta and on to Edmonton.  From around Blue River, BC, through Robson and into Alberta there are areas where the various species of Platantheras are everywhere.

The most visible is the white-flowered Platanthera dilatata.  There are three varieties of this species distinguished by the length of the spur, but we found only one, variety dilatata, the Tall White Northern Bog Orchis, with the spur the same length as the lip, though we have seen one of the other varieties, variety albiflora, with a spur that is visibly shorter than the lip.

One of the green-flowered Bog Orchids, Platanthera stricta, the Slender Bog Orchis, was as common as it is insignificant.  It is not an exaggeration to say that there are millions of them growing in every low, wet area along the highway.  This species has very small flowers and even the fact that there may be a hundreds of them on a stem does not make the species very noteworthy.

We also some plants that looked like the hybrid of the two species above, Platanthera stricta and Platnathera dilatata.  The green Platantheras are so difficult to distinguish that I am never quite sure what I am seeing, but these, with their almost white flowers and long spur appeared to be the hybrid, the name of which is Platanthera xestesii, the "x" indicating that it is a natural hybrid.  Its common names is Estes Rein Orchis.

We also found many Platanthera huronensis, the Green Bog Orchis, though not as many as the previouys two species.  It is similar to Platanthera stricta and all of these green-flowered Platantheras are difficult to distinguish from one another.  Even after years of observing them I am still not always sure which species I am seeing since they intergrade.

At one of the locations we went to visit we found a number of the Small Round-leaf Orchis, Amerorchis rotundifolia.  We have seen this species by the thousands at higher elevations, but it was not nearly so abundant here and nearing the end of its blooming season.  We looked for but did not find any of the unusual color variations of this small but attractive species.

Growing in the same area as the Amerorchis we found the Large Yellow Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens, hundreds of them.  Many of these were finished blooming but there were still some nice clumps and plenty of fresh flowers.  We noticed some color variation and variation in the shape of the pouch, but they were mostly uniform in plant and flower.

At another location we found one clump of the Small Northern Yellow Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin.  These flowers were tiny compared to the other variety and were also much more intensely colored.  Their small size and intense fragrance helped us identify them, though the two varieties intergrade and can be difficult to distinguish.

notice the Crab Spider on the front flower

Nearby we found Coeloglossum viride var. virescens, the Long-bracted Green Orchis.  This unusual species looks at first glance like a green-flowered Platanthera and often grows with them, but the flowers on closer inspection are very different.  This species has been reported from Washington, but I have never seen it there and know of no locations.

At a third location we found hundreds of Mountain Lady's Slippers, Cypripedium montanum.  These, too, were starting to show their age, but there were still plenty of fresh flowers and many more than we had ever seen at this location.  The color of the flowers ranged from greenish to a darker mahagony, though the greenish flowers were far more abundant.

That made for a total of ten species and varieties, not a bad haul for a day's orchid hunting, and there were other locations we did not have time for that we could have visited with the assurance of seeing at least three more species.  Perhaps on the way home, but lack of time will almost certainly be a factor later in the week and we may have to pass on several species.


  1. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. I have never seen some of those species in the wild, so I very much enjoyed doing so vicariously through you!

    1. Thank YOU for checking my blog and commenting. I'm glad you were able tos ee some of these through my camera lens but it would be much nicer if you could see them in the wild.

  2. Highly interesting again.

    Those Platantheras sure put up quite the display. That kind of mass bloom is something I have yet to see with our Platantheras. What a sight that must be.
    This year I have seen plenty of Coeloglossum. In the higher regions of the alps they are on every (non fertilized) meadow. However ours seem smaller. Or were those outstanding specimen? They look kind of different than our plants too.
    Amerorchis looks kind of similar to our Orchis genus. Very cute. They are small plants, right?

    About the lady slippers I have said enough. I am just envious about the many species you have.

    P.S.: I missed you. Glad you are back!

    1. Hi again, Martin. Way behind on posts.

      The Coeloglossum are listed for Washington but I know of no locations. They are very common further north. Hard to find a place where they don't grow. My book lists several varieties for them including a smaller variety, var. viride, which it lists for Eurasia as well. The smaller variety is described as 6-15 cm and the larger variety as 20-80 cm.

      The Amerochis used to be Orchis, but has been reclassified. They are small plants no much taller than 15 cm. They are very common in the areas of British Columbia and Alberta where we've seen them - hard to walk without stepping on them.

      If you come out we'll show you our Lady's Slippers. Most of them are in bloom about the same time.

    2. To make it even more weird: there are plants here, that are very small and have reddish or even yellowish tones in the green flowers and there are tiny and big ones here. Sure not 80cm tho, but 30 is possible, especially at the lower altitudes.

      Amerorchis looks like something I would love to see. I really love Orchis. A lot of our Orchis ave been reclassified to Anacamptis. It is kind of tough for me to remain up to date. Coming back to Coeloglossum viride: this plant is put into the Dactylorhiza genus by some. It enjoys hybridizing with Dactylorhiza and thus seems to be genetically close. However I have not yet seen such a Dactyloglossum.

      As for the ladyslippers: You would have to have a looooot of time and patience with me. ;-)

    3. Martin,
      The Coeloglossum we've seen tend to be a yellowish-green, and have reddish-brown colors in the lip. I'
      ve never seen them as tall as 80 cm, but more like 30-45 cm. The smaller version I've never seen. It is listed for the far north including Alaska.

      The hybrid of Dacytlorhiza and Coeloglossum sounds interesting and certainly shows a close affinity between the genera. As to the Amerorchis, it would be interesting to find out if it hybridizes with Orchis, though I suppose someone will do a genetic analysis and find out that way.

      As to patience, we are the world's slowest hikers and when my wife gets going, I spend a lot of time waiting for her, so that would not be a problem at all, in fact, you might be the one waiting.