Friday, October 2, 2015

The End of Another Season (2015)

What a strange season this was!  The season began earlier than ever before with the first Fairy Slippers blooming in March and ended nearly a month early with nearly everything finished blooming by the beginning of August.  We had almost no snow in the mountains last winter, a very early and warm spring, followed by a summer that was hot and dry like none we've ever had before.

The orchids, except at higher elevations were almost all very few in number and were often blooming poorly as well.  We saw a lot of aphids, usually a sign of excessive dryness, and in some cases, especially with the Spiranthes, there were sites where the plants had apparently gone completely dormant.  We hope at least that they are dormant and not gone forever.

In spite of the many disappointments there were a few highlights.  We saw for the first time the natural hybrid of the two varieties of Calypso bulbosa, Calypso bulbosa x kostiukiae.  We had looked for this for several years and finally found it.  It's a hybrid of the Eastern and Western Fairy Slippers, variety americana and var. occidentalis and though it has features of both is very different from either.

We also saw for the first time the albino (alba) form of the Mountain Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium montanum fma. praetertinctum (that last word means "without color").  We had looked for this also many times before but found it in a location where we had looked and where, at least at that time, it was not growing.  We found only a few plants but at least we found it.

One other highlight was that with the help of a good friends we now have locations for some of the native orchids we have not seen in the state of Washington.  We've seen them elsewhere, but not at home.  We hope there will be opportunity to see them next season and to finish seeing all the native orchids of Washington within the state.  These are some of them.

Coeloglossum (Dactylorhiza) viride var. virescens

Platanthera obtusata var. obtusata

Listera (Neottia) borealis

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thirty-second and Last Orchid of the Season and Others

We had not expected to find any more native orchids, at least not any new species, when we were out hiking August 7th.  We did, however, find the thirty-second orchid of the season and a new species for us in Washington.  Though we had seen this species a number of times previously, when I checked my records I discovered that this was the first time we saw it in the state.  The orchid is the best of our Platantheras, Platanthera orbiculata, the Pad-leaved Orchis, known both for its large, shiny plate-like leaves which are held close to the ground and for its intricate greenish-white flowers.  The plant can be up to 75 cm tall, but these were smaller, nearer 30 cm.  They were almost finished flowering, but were unmistakable and were growing where one would expect to see them, in an open woodland.  Because the flowers were not that fresh I've included a couple of other pictures from another location.

Along with the Platanthera we found quite a number of Goodyera oblongifolia, the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, still blooming. These in fact were everywhere, and though they are so common that we usually do not even bother to photograph them, it was nice to see them when hardly anything else, orchids or wildflowers, was blooming.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thirty-first Orchid of the Season

It is amazing that by August 1st the native orchid season was already over this year.  Usually the season extends well into August and there are orchids to be found even into September, but not this year - it was too hot and too dry.  August 1st was the last field trip for the Washington Native Orchid Society and a small group of us visited several sites in eastern Washington near the Columbia River to see the endangered Ute Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes diluvialis.  Like so many other species they were very few in number this year and were totally absent at one site.  We did find enough for photographs, however, though even those plants  were past their prime.  Spiranthes diluvialis is a natural hybrid of Spiranthes magnicamporum, the Great Plains Ladies'-tresses, which does not even grow in Washington, and Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hooded Ladies'-tresses.  It is taller than the Hooded Ladies'-tresses, up to 60 cm, though many of the plants we saw were much shorter.  The 1 cm flowers have a fringed appearance that immediately distinguishes them from our other two Spiranthes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thirtieth Orchid of the Season

The Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, is not a native but a European transplant that is well established here.  We saw it, though not yet blooming, in Olympic National Park, and these photos were taken shortly after in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham.  There is considerable color variation in the flowers and these show some of that variation, ranging from deep purple to green.  There were fewer plants than usual and most of them were also shorter than usual.  On some plants the flowers had never opened but simply dried up, due I'm sure to the lack of rain and the excessive heat of the past few months.  We've seen plants as tall as 90 cm but the tallest of these plants were only 60 cm.  The individual flowers were 1-3 cm across.