Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 10 July 2014

A few more orchids, Bruce Peninsula style

The counties of Grey and Bruce are the hotspot for native orchids in Ontario, with at least 46 species known. Orchid enthusiasts from far and wide visit the Bruce Peninsula every year to search them out.  For a few years way back when, it used to be almost an annual event for me. Of the 46 species in this area, I have been fortunate to have seen and photographed about 40 of them. Some of them were photographed elsewhere, and for some which I was fortunate to find, I had considerable help from other orchid enthusiasts. More than one species was a long way from the car, and it was only with excellent directions that I was able to find them. In spite of the long trek and uncertainty, it was gratifying to be able to find these beauties.

I had intended to do it again in 2014, but just didn't find the time. However I did go a couple of years ago and even in a whirlwind trip, it proved to be fun and satisfying. Most of the following photos are from that trip.

One of the most widespread and easily seen orchids is the Large Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium calceolus var pubescens). This one is supporting another species of wildlife, waiting to catch an unwary insect that might be approaching to pollinate it. Can you see it?

Cypripedium calceolus var pubescens

Another lady's-slipper that is widespread and on average, much larger, is the aptly named Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae). It grows in clumps along damp roadsides adjacent to White Cedar thickets.

Sometimes the slipper is a deep pink colour.

Cypripedium reginae

On extremely rare occasions, and something I have only seen once, one may encounter a Showy Lady's-slipper that is completely white, and is sometimes referred to as a Snowy Showy. A beautiful clump of these used to occur a bit east of Wiarton. This photo was taken quite a few years ago, on film, and so has been scanned here. The population has since disappeared, a result of residential development.

Fens (a type of wetland) along the west side of the Bruce Peninsula are wonderful places for orchids and other neat plants. I showed a Grass Pink (Calopogon pulchellus) on the previous post, but it is such a beautiful orchid that it deserves a repeat showing here.

Calopogon pulchellus

This species has an interesting pollinating process. When a large insect lands on the upper part of the petal which has the pollen grains, the petal is 'hinged' slightly so that it along with the insect flops down onto the pistil below, thus making sure of the transfer of pollen as the insect visits flower after flower.

Another one in these fens is the Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides), about the same size as the Grass Pink, but with a decidedly different appearance.

Pogonia ophioglossoides

One of the rarer orchids of the Bruce Peninsula is also one of the smallest, known as the Green Adder's Mouth (Malaxis unifolia). It inhabits the edges of small acidic 'lakes', usually at the edge of a white cedar thicket. I had seen this orchid on one occasion more than 20 years earlier, and I wasn't sure I could even find the right lake let alone the orchid, given some changes to the road network. But I persisted, and there right at the edge of the small lake underneath some more dominant vegetation (compared to this orchid, all other vegetation is dominant), were a few that were just beginning to flower. This orchid is a classic example of one that is not showy at all; in fact the only colours are a green and a translucent green! Add to the fact that it is only a few centimetres high, has a single leaf that is at the most 3 cm wide and no wonder it is rarely found. Even when in full flower, it is only about the diameter of your finger! The petals are 'up to' 3 mm in length.....this is definitely macro material! The view of it on your screen is several times life size!

Malaxis unifolia

Close-up of a close-up!

They were even smaller than I remembered them, and there was no way to use a tripod in the wet, hummocky surroundings, so I had to carefully bend over and hand-hold the camera, macro lens (using an extension tube, of course!) and flash, attempting to balance myself without tumbling over. With the macro setup on a full frame camera, it worked out alright, but even then I had to crop the photo a fair bit.

One that is distinctly more showy than the previous one, is next: the Tall White Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata), a.k.a. Bog Candles or Fragrant Orchid. I like the last name especially as it is quite fragrant. I find that it smells somewhat like spicy cinnamon.

Platanthera dilatata

I will have to dig through my slides and scan some of the other orchids from my Bruce Peninsula travels....some with exotic sounding names like Arethusa and Calypso the latter of which is magical to find, and others with descriptive names such as Striped Coralroot.

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