Montana Outdoors

June 4, 2011

Orchids and shrooms

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , , , — montucky @ 9:47 pm

While hiking on a favorite trail yesterday afternoon, I was delighted to encounter a plant that was interesting and brand new to me. I photographed it and later was able to identify it as Striped Coralroot, a saprophytic orchid, Corallorhiza striata.

Coralroots acquire their nutrients from decaying organic matter and lack the chlorophyll used by most plants for food production. Because of their dependency on decaying matter, they may be relatively abundant in one part of the forest one year and completely absent the next.

The Striped Coralroot has tall, shiny stems with a purplish tinge and somewhat pink flowers with 3 purplish stripes on each sepal. Of course, lacking chlorophyll, they also lack any green parts.

Striped Coralroot

Striped Coralroot

Striped Coralroot

Along the trail and not far from the Coralroots a mushroom was visible, one of the very few that I feel comfortable about identifying; a Morel, Morchella elata. Grouped into small areas along a few more miles of trail were more Morels and I brought a little over two pounds of them home. They are delicious, and a quick bit of research found that they are also expensive to buy these days; a recent price showed up at $155 a pound!


It was a pretty good afternoon!



  1. Unique orchids and very cool shrooms! Love those squiggly lines on them.


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — June 4, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

    • I think our wild orchids are very special and so it was an exciting surprise to find these.

      The Morels, prepared properly, are delicious!


      Comment by montucky — June 4, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

  2. I have seen a very similar orchid to those. They are very unique flowers. We didn’t pick any morels this year. I found one in our woods, but left it as it was the only one I saw. They certainly are a treat!


    Comment by kateri — June 5, 2011 @ 4:30 am

    • This is the only Coralroot I’ve seen and I nearly missed it at that. The morels were an unexpected gift. I wasn’t looking for them at al, just stumbled into an area that had a lot of them. I found more again today.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  3. Great photo capture of the coralroot! I have such a hard time trying to photograph this particular flower.

    Ah, morels. Hard to beat.


    Comment by writerwren — June 5, 2011 @ 5:52 am

    • It’s the yellow that makes it difficult, I think. Very subtle colors there.

      The morels were delicious! We are drying some now.

      Thank you for visiting!


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  4. What beauties – both the unidentified plant and the mushroom. Perfect!


    Comment by Marcie — June 5, 2011 @ 5:58 am

  5. how interesting! amazing to find such a delicacy on your daily hike! šŸ™‚ how do you go about identifying a plant with just a picture?


    Comment by silken — June 5, 2011 @ 6:19 am

    • This one was fairly easy because it had no green parts. I use a very good book on plants that was actually produced in British Columbia, but most of this part of Montana shares similar conditions and plant life. I also use the Burke Museum website (by the University of Washington). Then once I have a good lead on the plant other sites can be found to help verify it. I know though that I am sometimes wrong in the ID.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  6. I just knew that those were going to be morel mushrooms. I used to find those when I lived in the country. They are so delicioso!


    Comment by Roberta Warshaw — June 5, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    • For several years after a large fire, there will be hundreds of commercial pickers in the forests. I guess they can make a good bit of money hunting them. These however weren’t in a fire area at all, but on a seldom used mountain trail.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  7. Great photos! The Morels are something that I miss about west of the divid. I haven’t run across any over here.


    Comment by Jim — June 5, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    • I’ve only recently gotten interested in them and have found them in several places close by. I haven’t visited the site of the Chippy Creek fire yet this year, but should try there now that most of the roads into it are passable again.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

  8. Coralroot is so much prettier than Indian Pipes, but they grow the same way. Amazing that it is an orchid.

    Great luck with the morels. I wish I knew more gathering wild plants.


    Comment by sandy — June 5, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    • I haven’t gotten any photos of Indian Pipes yet but still have hopes. I think I will study more on the edible wild plants too. I have confidence in identifying only the morels and giant puffball mushrooms and a dozen or so berries. Time to learn about and try more plants!


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  9. I was cruising along enjoying the beautiful orchids, then BAM… there were a couple of morels right in my face. šŸ™‚ DINNER!!!!


    Comment by kcjewel — June 5, 2011 @ 10:17 am

    • We had a bunch of them for dinner and are drying the rest. I added another couple of pounds of them today too!


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

  10. I always enjoy your photos as so many of your subjects aren’t here in the northeast. What a beautiful orchid!


    Comment by Cedar — June 5, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    • I’ve been enjoying photos of flowers from other areas too. I’ve been quite surprised at how small some of the plants’ distribution areas are. I would have thought they would have spread more.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  11. Hi Montucky, I like that third picture the best today. Great shots in all! Glad you got those mushrooms and I am also glad you know which are edible. Have a fantastic evening and great coming week!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — June 5, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    • It was a good day for someone who loves the outdoors.

      You have a great week too!


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

  12. There is also a spotted coralroot, but I don’t know if it is found in Montana. I rarely see morels in the wild, but can count on finding them at the farmers market! Sauteed in butter. Yum!


    Comment by Kim — June 5, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    • According to USDA Plants it does grow here but I haven’y seen one yet.

      I gathered another couple of pounds of morels again today on a long hike in the back country. They are now in the dehydrator, except for the ones that will be part of tomorrow’s dinner.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  13. Orchids and morels ? Quite a precious afternoon… and beautiful pictures. Just received a lovely flower gift (pot) with precisely this orchid.


    Comment by isathreadsoflife — June 5, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    • Yes, it was a good afternoon! That orchid would make a very nice gift! It’s a beautiful plant. I had no idea that it could be grown domestically.


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  14. That was a very profitable walk, over $300 worth of goods and some gorgeous photos! The coralroot is so pretty and interesting to have a plant with no green parts.


    Comment by Candace — June 5, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    • We do get a lot of wild food in summer. Mushroom and berries and lots of trout. Good things from the green house too!


      Comment by montucky — June 5, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

  15. Morels grow here, too … I have friends who pick every year. I hear they are good, but my lack of knowledge makes me not trust any mushroom I find in the woods .. I will keep your photo in mind the next time I see a similar mushroom in the woods.


    Comment by bearyweather — June 6, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    • I only trust myself to identify morels and giant puffballs. It’s not good to take any chances. There are several pretty good web sites for morels, and it’s fairly easy to distinguish false morels (which can be poisonous) from real morels.


      Comment by montucky — June 6, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  16. The photos of the coral root are exquisite and the one of the morel is delicious. You are the best!


    Comment by Wild_Bill — June 6, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    • Thanks Bill! It’s such a pleasure to travel these trails and see what the forest is doing. Lots of pleasant surprises!


      Comment by montucky — June 6, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  17. My goodness, I haven’t seen before Striped Coralroot… odd… orchids on a stick/stem. Love the capture of the shrooms… and I certainly don’t know how to identify mushrooms and wouldn’t try. Expensive, morels are!


    Comment by Anna — June 6, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

    • We had morels with dinner tonight (and they were delicious!) and a big fresh trout (that was caught yesterday in the river near here) cooked on the grill. It’s sure nice to have a meal like that! (And the price was right!)


      Comment by montucky — June 6, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

  18. Again I have to say: OMG. Very beautiful. That Morchella elata is not found here, but we have a little bit similar: Gyromitra esculenta.


    Comment by sartenada — June 10, 2011 @ 1:33 am

    • I understand that one is found here too, but I have never encountered it.


      Comment by montucky — June 10, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

  19. What a gorgeous find. The orchid photos are lovely. And lucky you for finding 2 pounds of morels! What a profitable day? People I know in this area don’t share any information about where they’ve found morels because they want to keep them all to themselves!


    Comment by Victoria — June 13, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    • Where the morels and the elk herds are belong in the secret category here too. I found just a couple yellow morels yesterday and had them for dinner tonight. Yum!


      Comment by montucky — June 13, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

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