Monday, June 1, 2015

Tenth Orchid of the Season and Others

We made a brief trip recently to see one of the most amazing of our native orchids, Cephalanthera austiniae, the Phantom Orchid.  After a failed attempt at a first location we found and photographed it at a second location, our tenth orchid of the season.  We did find it at the first location - it was everywhere - but we only found one plant in bloom.  All the rest were still in bud.

Cephalanthera austiniae

The second location is one we try to avoid, a very dark forest floor with a lot of poison oak.  The day we were there we had not only to contend with poor light and poison oak, but with a stiff breeze.  We managed to get some decent photos, however.  At this location, too, we found a lot of plants and almost all of them were in bloom, but that location is a bit lower and warmer than the first.

Cephalanthera austiniae

 The Phantom Orchid is the only North American species in the genus Cephalanthera and the only species in the genus that is mycoheterotrophic, without chlorophyll or leaves, and depending for nourishment on a soil fungus.  It is bone white and stands out in the forest in which it grows like a phantom.  It is very rare in most of its range but very common in the locations we visited.

Along with the Phantoms we found the Striped Coralroot, Corallorhiza striata, still blooming.  These were nearing the end of their bloom season, but we found some nice examples in both the pinkish and yellowish color forms.  This was at a higher elevation than at home and so the season is later - they are long finished in the areas we visited nearer home.

Corallorhiza striata var. striata

We also found the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, including the tan-stemmed form, fma. intermedia and the yellow-stemmed form, fma. aurea, the latter just starting to bloom.  Among all these there was one very strange pink-lipped form, very different from anything we've seen before (the lip is usually white).

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. intermedia

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis fma. aurea

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis (pink-lipped form)


Angel Mar said...

They are all delicious, Ron. Congratulations to locate them and thanks for sharing them. The Cephalanthera resembles our C. damasonium (which is yellowish) but in immaculate white

Ron said...

Thanks for looking and commenting, Angel. This species is not only white but leafless and achlorophyllous.

Kim Owen said...

Hi Ron. My daughter and I have written a children's book about orchids that I am interested in speaking with you about. I know that this is not the right place to leave a message like this, but I cannot find an email for you. One of my first questions is are there wild orchids blooming now near Bellingham that we could photograph for the book? You may email at Thank you!

Ron said...

Hi Kim,
I'll email you at the address you've given me.