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.
Four summers ago I encountered my first Clarkia high on a steep mountainside beside a little forest road that went nowhere. There at the very end of the road, while I was trying to turn the Jeep around in a space about a foot longer than it was, I saw it; just one blossom. Today a mile up a trail that isn’t there and about three miles from that first sighting I discovered a hillside full of them. This is the year to celebrate the Pinkfairies!
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.
A few days ago on a short bike trip on a lightly traveled road along the river, some small specks of white caught my eye. They decorated an area of sharp cliffs that had a seep of water trickling down over them. I stopped and a closer look disclosed these pretty little blossoms of a species of saxifrage that I had never before encountered. (Just when you think you’ve seen them all.) My favorite plant book notes under Ecology: “Scattered at low to subalpine elevations mostly in wet Columbia Mountains on moist rock outcrops, damp soil and streambanks”.