The first cold front with Arctic air has moved into our area for a brief stay bringing colder temperatures and a little snow. It was impossible to resist taking a short hike up to the lower end of Spring Creek to see the new snow on the cedars and to check on the water level in the creek.
At a casual glance, the leaves of the Twisted-stalk look like those of the False Solomon’s seal, and for years I didn’t look at them any closer. Then in the Spring Creek canyon one day the sky suddenly opened up and the rain came pouring down, giving me only time enough to pop open a small umbrella that I always carry with me and crouch down under it so that it would keep my camera and most of me dry. That put the plant at eye level and I suddenly saw the little blossoms hiding beneath the large leaves and realized that the inadvertent “closer look” had revealed another plant that was new to me.
Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, Orchid family
About a mile from the trail head at Spring Creek, these little orchids are just beginning to bloom. They are widespread and common at low to mid elevations in moist and wet climates in most of the U.S. and Canada, although I suspect they are often overlooked. They are listed as “of special concern”, “threatened” or “endangered” in 7 states.
Their genus Corallorhiza (the Coralroots) are saprophytic, deriving their nutriments from decaying organic material and do not have the chlorophyll used by most plants for food production. As with most saprophytes, they cannot be cultivated and because of their dependency on decaying matter, they may be abundant in one part of the forest one year and completely absent the next.
The very large leaves in these photos belong to a plant aptly called “Devil’s Club”, Oplopanax horridus; note the large sharp spines. It grows up to 9 feet tall and the leaves get up to 14 inches across. A flower bud is visible in the first photo: it will turn into white blossoms followed by bright red fruit. I will try to remember to follow up with photos of both later in the summer. I found there is a reason for the species name horridus after having accidentally making contact with some of the spines.