Back to the Orchids

If you want to fully experience the phenological beat of the forest, it takes at minimum a weekly trip into the woods. Last weekend I had searched for orchids and found a few that I falsely assumed to be yellow lady’s-slipper. I returned to the same spot a week later to look for it in full bloom… but in that trip in the same general spot, I got distracted by an explosion of thumb-sized small yellow lady’s slipper blooms, and neglected to look again for the pink stemless slippers I had earlier found unopened.

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But first– rewind to earlier in the day that Sunday, I headed to my usual spruce bog to see what I might find out there. White seems to be the color of spring, as variations in shape displayed the versatility of whie in so many ways: Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), Wild Calla (Calla palustris), False Solomon’s Seal, Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata).

After trudging the bog and appreciated whatever blooms I could find, I did finally stumble onto some orchids as hoped. Some stemless/pinks were there in a lightly more white variation.

I always appreciate finding pitcher plants in the bog, and I had hoped to find some of their unique blooms, which I did, but they were yet unopened. Out of the bog and into some higher ground, I stepped around many Jack-In-The-Pulpit.

I came out of the woods and joined some family for lunch, and then some friends for supper. Come evening, it was back into the woods in a new area with a buddy.

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The bluebeads (Clintonia borealis) were blooming, as were many bunchberry dogwoods (Cornus canadensis). Blueflags (Iris versicolor) were just beginning their display long the edges of a beaver pond.

We trudged around the woods, bog, and beaver pond for that wild, finding interesting plants, but not the orchids we were looking for. We departed those woods and drove to a location I had visited a week or so before, and found unopened stemless slippers. Almost immediate success, it seemed we had stepped into the slippers at their prime. Lesser Yellow Lady Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) were in abundance. In the mossy-floored cedar woods.

We cut through the cedar forest to make a quicker exit to the highway. Then, as we walked the shoulder back to the car, we saw clusters more of the Lesser Yellows. Again, it’s nice to see them, but just like Greater Yellows and Showy Slippers I’ve seen along the highway, it seems to slightly invalidate our bushwhacking attempts to find them deep in the woods and bogs. Regardless, working harder to find them in the woods makes it much more rewarding than finding in the ditches.

Would you believe it? A few days later a casual walk to a wooded area a few blocks from my house warranted a great find. Nearly a dozen stemless pinks were in pink bloom near the banks of the Mississippi, and I didn’t even have to brave the bogs and mosquitoes. Again,  it would seem to discredit the orchid safaris into the bush, but it’s good to see them anywhere. (Also, some Trillium cernuum were nodding their heads in the woods nearby.)

So while it is always nice to see a pretty bloom, I find the experience more rewarding when you have to encounter wet feet and swarming mosquitoes on the quest to see them.

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