Saturday, December 13, 2014

Neottias of the Pacific Northwest

The species, known until recently as Listeras, have been moved into the genus Neottia.  There are four such species in the Pacific Northwest and three additional North American species.  The four species treated in this article are Neottia banksiana, borealis, convallarioides, and cordata.  Until this past summer we had only seen three of the four species from our area, but finally found the last and rarest of them, Neottia convallarioides in the Mount Rainier area of Washington.

Neottia banksiana, the Northwestern Twayblade, is very common in our area and can be found along nearly every mountain trail in the Cascades, the Olympics and Canadian Rockies.  It is a fairly tall plant (up to 30 cm) and its height is usually the first clue to its identity (the other tend to be smaller).  The 1 cm flowers, up to 15 per stem, are not showy but with the darker markings on the lip are attractive especially when seen close up.

Neottia borealis, the Northern Twayblade, reaches only 20 cm in height and is usually smaller, lives up to its name.  It becomes more common the further north one goes.  It is found into Montana, Idaho and Washington but is very rare that far south.  It has up to 15 flowers per spike and the flowers are a pale watery green that looks translucent in good light.  Like the other species it size and the color of the flowers mean that it usually goes unnoticed.

Neottia convallarioides, the Broad-lipped Twayblade, is quite rare.  It is known, for example, from only a few locations in the state of Washington.  It seems to prefer wetter locations and where we have found it is growing near seeps and springs.  It, too, has up to 15 clear green flowers and grows to 30 cm tall, though it is usually much less than that.  Neottia banksiana is often mistaken for it, but when once seen is unmistakable in that it lacks any dark markings on the lip.

Neottia cordata, the Heart-leaved Twayblade, is another very common species.  We have seen it growing by the thousand in open mossy areas in the Cascades.  It is usually very small (15 cm or less) with as many as 25 tiny flowers that are less than 1 cm in size.  It has two varieties, and two color forms, green and reddish.  The varieties are var. cordata with narrower leaves and a shorter lip and var. nephrophylla with wider leaves and a longer lip.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Some Name Changes

There have been a number of name changes recently among our native orchids, mostly changes of genus, that have shuffled many of the orchids back into older genera.  Most of this taxonomic revision appears to have been done by Richard Bateman.  Whether these names will stick remains to be seen, but at least for now these appear to be the current names.

First, Coeloglossum viride var. viridis, the Frog Orchis or Long-bracted Green Orchis, is now once again Dactylorhiza viridis var. virescens.

Second, all the Listeras have been moved back to the genus Neottia.  This involves a total of four species from the Pacific Northwest.

Neottia borealis

Neottia cordata

Neottia banksiana

Neottia convallarioides

Third, all the Piperias, five species, have been moved back into the genus Platanthera, with Piperia candida changed to Platanthera ephemerantha.

Platanthera unalascensis

Platanthera elegans

Platanthera transversa and Platanthera elongata

Platanthera ephemerantha

Fourth, Malaxis monophyllos var. brachypoda seems now to be the accepted name for Malaxis brachypoda in spite of differences between that species and its Eurasian counterpart.

Fifth, the Small Round-leaf Orchis, Amerorchis rotundifolia, is now Galearis rotundifolia, a completely new genus for this species.

It is sometimes hard to keep up with the changes and to remember them, especially because the names seem to be in a continual state of flux and may be different again tomorrow.  In any case, if you are looking for a particular species always check for synonyms.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The End of Another Season (2014)

This year was a very good season for orchid hunting.  In the course of our travels and hiking, myself alone, the two of us together or with others, we not only revisited many sites, but found new sites both in Washington and in the Canadian Rockies.  We made a number of excursions with the Washington Native Orchid Society and were able to take them to several locations we had discovered.  We also spent three days with friends from Germany who had come to see some of our native orchids and were happy to show them 15 different species and varieties.

The highlight of the year was finding the two Washington native species that we had not seen before.  The first of the two was Spiranthes diluvialis, a very rare natural hybrid of Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hooded Ladies'-tresses and Spiranthes magnicamporum, the Great Plains Ladies'-tresses.  The second was Neottia convallarioides, the Broad-lipped Twayblade, a rather insignificant plant but also rare.  Seeing and photographing these two species means that we have seen all of Washington's known native orchids, though not everyone of them in the state of Washington (more on that).

Along with these two we found some interesting new color forms of Corallorhiza maculata, the Spotted Coralroot, a species that seems to be endlessly variable in color.  We saw these color forms, both named and unnamed, in both varieties, the ordinary Spotted Corallroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata, and the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis.  Seeing so many different forms has convinced us that naming these forms, with a few exceptions, is a useless endeavor not only because there are so many but because the variations are endless.

Other finds were a nearly white form of the Small Round-leaf Orchis, Amerorchis rotundifolia fma. wardii. There is an all-white form which we have not seen, fma. beckettiae, but this form has pale pink makings on the lip.  There are numerous color forms of this species and several others as well that we have yet to see, but were very pleased to find a few of these growing among many other normally colored forms.  In fact, we have found that having seen all of our native species many times, we spend more time looking for unusual examples and rare color forms.

That leaves us with plans for 2015, which we intend to be much more relaxed.  I have in mind seeing in the state the Washington native species that I have not seen there, though I have seen them elsewhere.  They are Coeloglossum viride var. virescens, the Long-bracted Green Orchis, Listera borealis, the Northern Twayblade, Liparis loeselii, the Fen Orchis, Platanthera obtusata, the Blunt-leafed Rein Orchis, and Platanthera orbiculata, the Pad-leaved Orchis.  We've seen these elsewhere but would like to see them here, though some of them are very rare in the state.

We would also like to see the species we did not see this season and would especially like to visit northern California and southern Oregon once again.  Along with seeing these we would like to see in Alberta, in California and in some of the states bordering the Pacific Northwest, some of the new species we have not seen before.  There are also a number of Pacific Northwest species that are found only in Canada and Alaska that we would like to see, but all these plans depend on time and opportunity.  In any case we intend to continue our orchid hunting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spiranthes diluvialis

Spiranthes diluvialis, the Ute Ladies'-tresses, was the last of the native orchids we saw this season and we saw it for the first time ever in the Columbia River basin.  It is a natural hybrid of Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hooded Ladies'-tresses, and Spiranthes magnicamporum, the Great Plans Ladies'-tresses, a species that does not grow in the Pacific Northwest.  It is very rare and listed as Federally threatened, due especially to habitat destruction.  We had looked for it previous years but with better information we found it this season and found it growing in the kind of location it prefers, along a river and in an area that is often inundated well into the summer months.  It is a beautiful species with white to near-white flowers, plants that are 30 cm tall, and flowers that are tubular and 1.5 cm long.  The flowers like most of the Spiranthes are "braided" around the stem, adding to the beauty of the species.