Here's a native orchid we found Monday while out doing wildflower photography. Usually we find this in the mountains later in the season, but there is one location at sea level where we always find a few plants of the Heart-leaved Twayblade, Listera cordata var. nephrophylla, now known as Neottia cordata and the same species that can be found in Europe. It has a plain green form and this reddish form and it is a tiny thing, in this case only six inches tall (15 cm) with 1 cm flowers.
Albino Fairy Slipper
We were out for a while yesterday doing wildflower photography on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. We found three native orchids in bloom along with numerous other wildflowers. Some of the native orchids we found were Fairy Slippers and among them we found two rare "albinos" without any of the normal pink and mahogany coloring. This is one of them. The other had no color at all, not even the green color at the back of the lip. A normal flower is included in the inset for comparison.
Western Fairy Slipper
Last Thursday turned out to be a decent day and as my wife put it, "we flew the coop." We found a lot of the early spring wildflowers along the coast including these first orchids of the season. We did not find a lot of them since they are just starting to bloom, a bit earlier than usual, but it was nice to see them again. They are always the first orchids and among the first wildflowers to bloom in our area. They are the Western Fairy Slipper, found only in a relatively small area west of the Rocky Mou…
The Broad-leaved Helleborine is usually counted among our native orchids, since it has naturalized in many different locations, but it is in fact not a native and not even a North American species. It was brought to eastern Canada by settlers in the 19th century who used it to curdle milk, and has since spread across southern Canada and the United States. Interestingly, we've found it mostly long railways or old abandoned tracks.
Mountain Lady's Slipper
This beautiful Lady's Slipper does not, in my experience, grow on the west side of the Cascades, but is quite common on the east side, if you know where to look for it. It is the Mountain Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium montanum, this example photographed in Blewett Pass, south of Leavenworth, Washington.
Eastern Fairy Slipper
Photographed in late spring in eastern Washington, this is the Eastern Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa var. americana, distinguished by the yellow beard and unspotted lip margin. This variety does not bloom west of the Cascades and blooms later than variety occidentalis which is found west of the Cascades and which has a white beard and a lip with mahogany spotting along the margins. Both varieties have the single leaf shown here and grow to about 15-25 cm tall.
Northern Green Bog Orchis
This is Platanthera aquilonis, the Northern Green Bog Orchis, photographed along the Richardson Highway in Thompson Pass and one of the few orchids we found on our Alaska trip. The mild winter and warm spring and summer meant that everything there was early just as it had been here. Platanthera aquilonis is part of a complex of green-flowered species that intergrade into each other and are often difficult to identify, but this is a classic example of the species, with its short spur and yellowish lip.
Green Bog Orchis
These were photographed along the highway in Thompson Pass between Glennallen and Valdez. We found three different orchids in the place where we stopped, this the tallest and the one that caught our attention as we drove by. Its Latin name is Platanthera huronensis and it is a common orchid across the USA and Canada. This species can be as tall as three feet (90-100 cm) but these were 18 inches (45 cm) or less.
Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper
Also known as Franklin's Lady's Slipper, this was one of the few orchids we saw in Alaska and these were well past their peak, though we found enough good flowers to photograph. This photo is my wife's taken along the Richardson Highway near Thompson Pass. The Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper is not found as far south as Washington but is common further north in the Canadian Rockies and in Alaska.