Monday, March 30, 2015
Twice in the last week I've visited some of the coastal areas where the native orchids bloom earliest, on Monday, March 23rd, and Monday, March 30th. On the second visit I found the first Coralroots of the season, just a few stems, but several weeks earlier than usual. These were the Western Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis, distinguished by its earlier bloom time and by its wide-lobed lip.
The Coralroots I found at only one location but I also found Western Fairy Slippers, Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, at most of the locations I visited, several of them new areas for me. These are already nearing the peak of their bloom season along the coast, like the Coralroots, several weeks earlier than usual. Among them I also found my first white Fairy Slipper of the season, Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis fma. nivea.
Some of the Fairy Slippers are already fading. There are pale color forms, but even the darkest flowers turn an off-white when they are fading and it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference. The flowers shown below, however, are flowers that are faded, not pale color forms and some of the paler flowers above are also fading though there are a few pale-colored flowers as well, some nearly white, other pale pink.
This is the white form of the Western Fairy Slipper. It is easily distinguished from pale-colored forms and from flowers that are fading, since it has no mahogany color at all in the lip, only a bright yellow-green, and no pink at all in the rest of the flower. These are very rare. I've seen less than ten of them among all the thousands of Fairy Slippers I've seen and because they are rare, I do not disclose their location.
Another first find was a two-flowered form of the Western Fairy Slipper, fma. biflora. In the photo the lower stem has two flowers, though one of them is a bit chewed by an insect or a slug. This is apparently even rarer than the white form, since we have never seen it before, though we have found an occasional two-leaved form (most have only a single leaf held more or less against the ground.
We found the leaves of two other orchids as well. The Giant Rattlesnake Orchis, Goodyera oblongifolia, has leaves that are evergreen and can be found year around though the plant does not bloom until mid-late summer. Those shown are of the more beautiful form, fma. reticulata. The other leaves are of one of the Long-spurred Piperia, in this case, Piperia elongata, recently reclassified as Platanthera elongata.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
My wife and I were out on Monday, March 16, photographing an early spring and found the first native orchids of the season, Western Fairy Slippers, beginning to bloom at two locations. At the third location we did not find any in bloom, but did find plenty in bud.
The Western Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis, is the first of our native orchids to bloom, but this year, due to a mild winter and a warm spring, they are weeks ahead of schedule. We usually don't expect to see them until near the middle of March.