Monday, June 3, 2019

New Orchid Season

I had to lead a field trip for the Washington Native Plant Society on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands on May 18 and did some orchid hunting along the way and in preparation for the field trip.  I found five species in bloom and several additional varieties, the first orchids of the year for me.  The plants all seemed sparse this year, especially on the west side of the mountains where an unusual winter was followed by a hot and dry spring.

I stopped first in north-central Washington to see if the Eastern Fairy Slippers were blooming there.  They had just started and I found about six plants in flower, but it was raining and I did not linger or explore further than the area we were acquainted with.

Calypso bulbosa var. americana
Eastern Fairy Slipper

I went on to the west side of the Cascades and hike the Thunder Creek trail looking for the Western Fairy Slipper but they were nearly finished even at that elevation and I only found a couple of plants.  Also found two different Listeras in bloom there.

Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis
Western Fairy Slipper

 The Northwestern Twayblade was just starting to bloom and I found a few open flowers.  Both the red and green forms of the Heart-leaved Twayblade were blooming but there were far fewer of them than I am used to seeing that area.  I had difficulty finding just a few of them.

Listera (Neottia) banksiana
Northwestern Twayblade

Listera (Neottia) cordata var. nephrophylla
Heart-leaved Twayblade (green form)

Listera (neottia cordata var. nephrophylla fma. rubescens
Heart-leaved Twayblade (red form)

Later in preparation for the field trip I visited a number of different sites and found a few Western Spotted Coralroot blooming where I had expected to find many of them.  I also found some Western Coralroot but they were only just beginning to bloom.

Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis
Western Spotted Coralroot

Corallorhiza mertensiana
Western Coralroot

At a number of locations I found the Giant Rattlesnake Orchid but it was a long way from blooming, as I expected.  I did, however, take some photos of the leaves including some that showed the beautiful reticulation that is sometimes seen.

Goodyera oblongifolia
Giant Rattlesnake Orchid

Friday, May 31, 2019

Native Orchid Display

At the annual show of the Spokane Orchid Society to which we belong, I made and set up a display illustrating Washington's native orchids.  The display included photos, information, cut-out models of orchids and handouts.  The display won several ribbons and an Educational Excellent Award from the American Orchid Society.  These are the photos and information included in the display.

The three Orchid-gami, produced by the North American Orchid Conservation Center were:

Eastern Fairy Slipper

 Striped Coralroot

 Chatterbox (Epipactic gigantea)

The information on the display with the photos included
(top to bottom, left to right):

Chatterbox Orchid
lip "chatters" in the breeze

Washington’s only non-native orchid
Broad-leaved Helleborine
this orchid is a European native
which has established itself across North America

Washington’s most common orchid
Giant Rattlesnake Orchid

Washington’s most popular orchid
Fairy Slipper

Fairy Slipper Facts

Washington has two varieties of the Fairy Slipper
Eastern Fairy Slipper
distinguished by a yellow “beard”
and found across North America
Western Fairy Slipper
distinguished by a white “beard”
and found only west of the Rockies

where the range of these two varieties overlaps
a hybrid of the two can be found
Kostiuk’s Hybrid Fairy Slipper
distinguished by a finely spotted lip

Washington's rarest orchid
Chamiso's Orchid

Washington's smallest orchid
Heart-leaved Twayblade

Washington's three Lady's Slippers

Northern Yellow Lady's Slipper

Brownie or Clustered Lady's Slipper

Mountain Lady's Slipper

Orchid Facts

orchids are found on every continent except Antarctica
there are over 27,000 orchid species world-wide
many tropical orchids are ephiphytic, growing in trees
most North American orchids are terrestrial
all of Washington’s orchids are terrestrial
orchids have a modified third petal called a labellum
orchids have a fused male and female column
orchids have waxy masses of pollen called pollinia

Bog Candle
this is Washington's most fragrant orchid

Washington’s Weirdest Orchids

Washington has four Coralroot species
and the Phantom Orchid


these orchids have little or no chlorophyll
and are leafless or nearly so


they are mycoheterotrophic
getting nutrients from decaying soil materials
through a symbiotic relationship with a fungus

they can often be found on dark forest floors
where there is little light

Phantom Orchid

Spotted Coralroot

Striped Coralroot

Early Coralroot

Western Coralroot


the state of Washington has 33 orchid species

Fairy Slipper (April and May) Calypso bulbosa
Spotted Coralroot (April and May) Corallorhiza maculata
Brownie or Clustered Lady’s Slipper (April to June) Cypripedium fasciculatum - rare
Striped Coralroot (May and June) Corallorhiza striata
Western or Merten’s Coralroot (May and June) Corallorhiza mertensiana
Early or Yellow Coralroot (May and June) Corallorhiza trifida
Northern Yellow Lady’s Slipper (May and June) Cypripedium parviflorum – rare in Washington
Mountain Lady’s Slipper (May through July) Cypripedium montanum
Heart-leaved Twayblade (May through July) Neottia cordata
Phantom Orchid (June and July) Cephalanthera austiniae
Stream Orchid or Chatterbox (June and July) Epipactis gigantea
Frog Orchid or Long-bracted Green Orchid (June and July) Dactylorhiza viridis rare in Washington
Western Ladies’ Tresses (June and July) Spiranthes porrifolia – rare in Washington
Northern Twayblade (June and July) Neottia borealis – rare in Washington
Northwestern Twayblade (June and July) Neottia banksiana
Blunt-leaved Rein Orchid (June and July) Platanthera obtusata – rare in Washington
Northern Green Bog Orchid (June and July) Platanthera aquilonis
Tall Green Bog Orchid (June and July) Platanthera huronensis
Giant Rattlesnake Orchid (June through August) Goodyera oblongifolia
White Bog Orchid or Bog Candle (June through August) Platanthera dilatata
Alaskan Piperia (June through August) Platanthera unalascensis
Chamisso’s Orchid (July) Platanthera chorisiana – rare
Sparse-flowered Bog Orchid (July) Platanthera sparsiflora – questionable in Washington
Slender Bog Orchid (July and August) Platanthera stricta
Elegant Piperia (July and August) Platanthera elegans
Flat-spurred Piperia (July and August) Platanthera transversa
Long-spurred Piperia (July and August) Platanthera elongata
White-flowered Piperia (July and August) Platanthera ephemerantha
Round-leaved Rein Orchid (July and August) Platanthera orbiculata – rare in Washington
Broad-leaved Twayblade (July and August) Neottia convallarioides
Hooded Ladies’ Tresses (July and August) Spiranthes romanzoffiana
Ute Ladies’ Tresses (August) Spiranthes diluvialis – rare in Washington
Broad-leaved Helleborine (August) Epipactis helleborine not a native

Washington also has three known natural orchid hybrids

Kostiuk’s Hybrid Fairy Slipper (May) Calypso bulbosa x kostiukiae - rare
Columbia Hybrid Lady’s Slipper (May and June) Cypripedium x columbianum
Estes Hybrid Rein Orchid (June and July) Platanthera x estesii

Note: this list does not include varieties and subspecies.


Do’s and Dont’s

1. Do watch for native orchids.
You may find something unusual or very rare.
2. Do ask.
If you can’t identify the orchids you find., there is always someone eager to help.
3. Do take photos.
Photos help in identification and in saying “look what I found!”

1. Don’t pick.
Picking the flowers often destroys the plant.
Picking or digging wildflowers is illegal in most places.
2. Don’t dig.
Most native orchids cannot be grown in a garden due to their association with a fungus.
2. Don’t trample.
When observing or photographing be careful not to trample the orchids or other plants.
3. Don’t tell.
Especially if you’ve found something rare, tell only those you trust where you found it.

Ron Hanko


1. Washington Native Orchid Society
sponsors 3-4 orchid-hunting excursions every spring and summer, mostly in western Washington
further information can be found at:

2. Washington Native Plant Society
has different chapters around the state
sponsors hikes and nature walks in different areas
has a much broader interest than just native orchids
further information can be found at:

3. Goorchids
sponsored by the North American Orchid Conservation Center
has information for identifying all North American orchids
produces the orchid-gami that are part of this display
further information can be found at: