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Vol. 8(9), pp. 7-12The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalSeptember 2007

Stan's and Paul's Great Orchid Adventure! (Part I of III)

Stan Folsom & Paul Martin Brown

Fig. 1. Listera smallii Wiegand. Bull. Torrey Club 26: 169. 1899.

Fig. 2. Gymnadeniopsis clavellata var. clavellata. (Michaux) Rydberg. Britton, Man. 293. 1901.

Our great Southwestern orchid adventure started early Sunday morning, July 22, from our summer home in Maine. We packed up the car with our selves, the dogs, and everything we could fit in and headed out with our first stop in State College, Pennsylvania. Our pre-trip quest here was the copper colored form of Small's twayblade orchid, Listera smallii (Fig. 1), that Paul needed to photograph. Our local driving took us through meticulously kept Amish country and into a large state forest to the Alan Seeger Natural Area. Unfortunately we were unable to find that color form, but Stan did find a beautiful plant of the little club-spur orchid, Gymnadeniopsis clavellata (Fig. 2), in perfect condition.

The next three days took us over 1000 miles west through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, across the Mississippi River near St. Louis, and on to Kansas where we spent the night with friends. We were pleased to see that the area before and after Indianapolis was still devoted to farming, and were amazed to find that most of Kansas has rolling hills and trees instead of the flat land we thought of as typical of the area.

Then, on July 26th, we were finally into Colorado and the Great Plains where we really began our first day of exploring for the Southwestern Field Guide. After the prairies and Great Plains, the mountains of Colorado were a welcome sight! For flatlanders like us, living at near sea level, the elevation in the Rockies of 7,000 to 9,000 feet slowed us down a bit, but we were successful finding the first species on our wish list.

Fig. 3. Spiranthes diluvialis Sheviak.

Our first quest was a rare, local, ladies'-tresses orchid known primarily from the Boulder, Colorado area. After a few false starts and rather poor plants, we found the best spot, hurdled the fence, and explored the wetland near the farm that is now Boulder Open Space property. We rewarded with several hundred Ute ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes diluvialis (Fig. 3), many well over a foot tall!

After returning to the car to walk the dogs while Paul finished up his photos, Stan, using binoculars, found a new spot for the same rare orchid--always a rewarding experience!

Fig. 4. Platanthera purpurascens. (Rydberg) Sheviak & Jennings. (Short-spurred bog orchis)

Fig. 5. Platanthera purpurascens. (Rydberg) Sheviak & Jennings. (Short-spurred bog orchis)

Fig. 6. Platanthera aquilonis.

A gentle mountain seep near the Fourth of July Mine's trailhead at 8,000 feet, and the steep woodlands around provided us with several bog orchids, Platanthera purpurascens (Fig. 4) (Fig. 5), P. dilatata var. albiflora, and P. aquilonis (Fig. 6).

Fig. 7. Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis. (Lindley) Ames, Enum. Orchids U.S. & Canada; 22. 1924.

Stan found some of the spotted coralroot orchids, Corallorhiza maculata (Fig. 7) still in flower. We finished that day with an exhausting hike with the dogs to the ghost town of Hessie, and searched for more green bog orchids.

Fig. 8. Platanthera obtusata subspecies obtusata. The blunt-leaved rein orchis. Mt. Evans, Colorado

The next morning we headed west for the lower slopes of Mt. Evans. The Mt. Evans auto road is the highest in the U.S. if you go all the way to the top. We had done this several years ago, and the 14,000 foot+ elevation was a bit more than we could take. Although we were unable to find the spot a friend suggested, we found several orchid colonies of our own on the slopes of Mt. Evans, and many more of our target species of Platanthera purpurascens, and, with some great surprise, the blunt-leaf rein orchis, Platanthera obtusata subspecies obtusata (Fig. 8).

Fig. 9. Platanthera tescamnis Sheviak & Jennings. Rhodora 108: 19-31. 2006. The intermountain rein orchid from the Great Basin and Colorado plateau. Western Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and rare in bordering areas of eastern California and northeastern Arizona.

In addition to the orchids already noted from the Mont Evans area, we also found the Intermountain Rein Orchis, Platanthera tescamnis (Fig. 9).

The real treat there was that there were hybrids with a more common P. aquilonis, and now a new hybrid that needs to be named, a task Paul will tackle after our return. Our trek that day was a long one, and we had to make it as far as Moab, Utah that evening. Still another 300+ miles to go!

Editor's Note: Parts II and III will be published in the MIOS Journal's October and November 2007 issues (print version only).

Copyright © 2007 Stan Folsom & Paul Martin Brown