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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Orchid Society Field Trip

I received an invitation a week or so ago from Ron Hanko to attend a field trip with the Washington Native Orchid Society. Over the last year I have shared photos, comments and information on native orchids and wildflowers with Ron. He is a highly skilled photographer of orchids and has taken his art to the field. He captures amazing photos of all our native plants and freely offers help on finding elusive and rare species.

Visit his Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/ronaldhanko/

I had a good window of opportunity to be gone from work Friday so I jumped at the chance. The best part about group field trips is the chance to meet new people, share knowledge , learn about new locations. In the case of the elusive orchids, I am trying to learn about how they fit into the environment and how to see.

I allowed 2 1/2 hours to get to the town of Plain, north of Leavenworth. I needed every minute of it, arriving exactly at 10am. I have never been in this area and the road from Leavenworth was slower than I anticipated.

After a release form was signed we jumped into our cars and headed out of town. I doubt we went more than 1/2 mile when we pulled over , parked and headed up a minor trail that climbed the ridge line. It was forest service land, but there was not a sign or mark to show that this was anything but a local path.

Our leader pointed out what looked like three white asparagus spears sticking up from the ground. We left the trail and moved closed to see the spike of Phantom Orchids. There pure white orchids will be blooming in a few weeks.

We could easily find Coralroot spikes, also not yet in bloom and the leaves of Rattlesnake Plantain which will bloom later in the summer.

We went back down the trail and cut in. Here was the fabulous prize of the day...

Clustered Lady's Slipper , Cypripedium fasiculatum. The are rare and tiny. The plant does not stand more than four inches high and the flowers are barely one inch across. Like many orchids, the flowers nod, so their faces as turned away, further hiding their presence. Mixed in here were Mountain Lady Slippers, not yet in bloom. Four different genus / five different species in one location.

A roll of bright lime green colored tape was produced and small strips were laid on nearby plants to warn us of the presence of an orchid and to watch our step. As we carefully moved about we found more and more of these lovely flowers.

Most of them were greenish and buff, but one specimen was a lovely red, another a deeper brownish purple.

Also present were Blue Anemone, also called blue windflower or Oregon Anemone. They were so fragile and appeared to be near the end of their bloom. When I got my pictures into the computer I marveled at the lovely detail contained in one inch of flower.

We moved on to Leavenworth and paid a visit to Derby Canyon Natives http://www.derbycanyonnative.com/ a fantastic native plant greenhouse. There was a stunning array of penstemon and Lewsia which made me long for a garden. I am not sure these species would do well in western Washington but there were certainly species that would, including our native Blue Iris ( I took these pictures last weekend in Ellensburg)

and many of the fruiting shrubs. I held back on taking pictures but could not resist taking a picture of a blooming Prickly Pear. The ones I have seen in the environment this year have not had their show on.

From the nursery we carpooled up Derby Canyon. Here were were able to see Purple Trillium. Unlike our Western trillium with their showy prominent flower, the Purple hides its blossom in a canyon of leaves. The flower itself seems to hide inside its petals withthe petals drawn up and over. A pretty shy plant to be sure. In this environment there appeared to be ash of some kind on many of the plants. That is the fluffy white stuff in this picture.

We walked up the road a ways and climbed up a hill. There on the edge of the trail a lone Lyall's Mariposa Lily was holding on. This poor lily was pretty worn and was thought to be the only one blooming at the time. There were many in bud on the hillside and Ron managed to find another that had just opened. It was fresh and white as can be.

There was a new species of larkspur, Thin-petaled , to notice and everywhere they hosted these wonderful emerald green beetles. I am not sure what type they are, perhaps pollen beetles. I have a query on ID, Please ( Flickr)

I love capturing bug images. They can bet pretty tricky. There were so many beetles I had ample opportunity to capture some fun images.

This spider on the old Lyall's Mariposa has a fly

Ron's wife, Nancy found this stunning beetle for me.

The day was too short and although I would have loved to spend the night and noodle around, I am on call and the list of things to do at work this weekend is long.

But I have a new place to return to , perhaps Memorial Day Weekend. The Mountain Lady Slippers and the Phantom Orchids would be a great treat. I will be joining the Society and look forward to their next trip on the Olympic Peninsula. Ron gave me some tips for orchid locations on Whidbey Island . One of them is just up the way from the horse show venue I have spent so many hours at over the last 10 years.

Too many places, so little time.


  1. That emerald beetle is remarkably similar to a picture I took last week at the Whiting Road site. I finally identified it as a six spotted tiger beetle. Here's the picture that I took. I took it with the notion that you would enjoy it.


    And, the url to a much better picture from the web. I have given up on my camera. It just cannot seem to do closeups.


    It doesn't look like yours has six spots, but, maybe it's related in some way.

    Thank you for another lovely walk.

  2. I would say that your beetles are in the same Order but a different family. I think mine is a Leaf beetle ( chrysomelidae )

    Not a spot to be seen. There were two types, only easily seen as different in the computer . one emeradle green , the other a blue to black.