Sunday, June 17, 2012

Plant Profile; Corallorhiza maculata ssp. maculata

Let's talk about Orchids. Do you like orchids? The ones that appear around about February 14th at the grocery store every year? Those orchids are nice, but they can't hold a candle to our native orchids. They may not be as big, showy or in-your-face, in fact you have probably walked right past this little guy a hundred times, but not anymore.  
This is Corallorhiza maculata, or Spotted Coral root, 
a lovely delicate native orchid.
Things you should know about it;
  • It has no leaves or photosynthetic tissue, in fact it is saprophytic (call someone that in a bar and try not to get punched in the face), which means it derives it nutrients from decaying organic matter rather than creating food from sunlight and H2O like most other plants. Specifically, these orchids parasitize the mycelium of fungi which grow in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of certain trees. Did you get that? That's right, Tree-Mushroom-Orchid Trinity! Ecology couldn't get more interesting. This also means you can't cultivate them in your garden, unless you're a wizard. Are you a wizard? Didn't think so. 
  • They tend to cluster at the roots of trees in moist shady coniferous forests and subalpine woods where a shaft of light can reach the ground. 
  • They are self pollinating and bloom from May to September occurring from Prince of Wales island all the way to California.
  • Great places to spot them in Victoria include Goldstream park, Mt. Doug, Mt. Finlayson, Whitty's lagoon, and Francis Scott King park.
  • It is identifiable from other Corallorhiza maculata by its magenta spotted lip.

Where did I get this info?
"Plant Of The Pacific Northwest Coast"; Pojar and Mackinnon

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