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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Indian Pipe Dance

There was only time for a quick hike this morning.  I had duties at work and I wanted to finish before 1:00

I went to the far side of Cougar Mountain regional park.  There is a trail there that I knew was a good solid climb of about 4 miles round trip. 

It was foggy with low marine clouds but that did not stop me from working up a sweat.  About half way up the trail it started raining as the clouds and moisture condensed and dripped down from the leaves and needles of the trees.  Our trees have aerial roots in the limbs which can harvest these dripping condensates.

There were tons of birds singing and moving about.  I saw young Spotted Towhees, Robin and Varied Thrush.  Band-tailed pigeons and many sparrows and thrush were feeding on Red Elder berries.  The pigeons were particularly noisy as they flapped away from the bushes.  It was good to see these uncommon wood pigeons, I rarely get glimpses of them.  The woods here were filled with flowering Ocean Spray,  Red Elder , Red Huckleberry and Salal.  Berries everywhere.

As I walked up the steep rocky trail I rounded a hairpin and my eye instantly caught a glimpse of a rare woodland plant.  Indian Pipe ~ Monotropa uniflora

Ahh Pipes!!! I exclaimed out loud.  This is how I usually find them, little mysteries just poking out of the soil.

They are oddballs.  This is how my plant book groups them.  Indian Pipe, is a member of the wintergreen family and are connected to the roots of coniferous trees using a combination of fungal and plants roots called mycorrhiza.  Nutritionally it is a parasite, but it is not a direct parasite since it makes use of the mycorrhiza to transport the nutrition.  Douglas fir trees are interconnected with other firs by mycorrhiza, the Indian Pipes tap in.

I am usually content with these little emergent pipes, but a few steps up the trail there was this

Tall pipes, showing their flowers, beginning to turn black and go to seed.  These also showed some of the pink tint they can have.

I was delighted, but it wasn't over.  A few steps along more and more.  Large bouquets like I have never seen.  These had a purple cast.

What a thrill.  I found a few random clusters further along, hiding under ferns.  It was only along about 100 feet of trail.  Hard to see what it was that made this spot better than any other along the way.

But there was a bit of magic here, that is for sure.


  1. Never tire of Indian Pipes. Amazing plants.

    Are you coming Saturday? Lot of Piperias. 100+ transversa, 100+ elegans, 50+ elongata, and more transversa at Washington Park.

  2. Regrest, I have l=plans for Saturday,,, this year just not working out for me

    though I would not mind a scouting preport and some hints, perhaps I will swing up there on sunday

  3. P. transversa all along the trail up to the top of Goose Rock with a few P. elongata mixed in. Where the trail splits and a side trail goes off to the right look in the grassy areas just down that way and there are more of both species there. At the top go to the right first and look under the trees on the right and on the left, there's a bunch of P. transversa under the trees on the first opening to your left. Go back the other way and from the top hike down the south side - lots of P. elegans and P. elongata along the trail down, and then along the trail that takes you around the rock to the east more P. elegans and P. elongata. The elegans were just passing their peak last Saturday, the transversa were at their peak and the elongata were well started blooming. Well worth the trip.