A collection of flora from the pacific wonderland.

Stream Orchid (Epipactis gigantea)

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Along the Trask River, Tillamook County, OR, 7/2020.

Yay!  After spending years at the top of our most wanted list, we finally tracked down this supposedly common orchid, but only after nearly walking by large groups of them twice.  As others have noted, these flowers are, for some reason, extremely easy to overlook, even when you are specifically hunting for them, as we were.

Their elusiveness may come from their small size.  While wildflower guides claim the plant can reach three feet tall, the ones we saw were rarely over a foot, with flowers an inch or less in width.  Also, the color combination of brown, green, and pink could be mistaken for dried leaves at first glance.  Finally, most of the plants we saw were growing interspersed among taller reeds, and grasses.  The leaves of E. gigantea, however, are not grassy, but are instead ovate, alternate, and “clasp” (wrap around) the stem.  The top two or three leaf axils produce flowers.

As “one of the most abundant orchids of the Pacific coast of North America” (according to wikipedia), the stream orchid is found in a mix of terrains, including along riverbanks, sunny breaks in moist forests, and meadows below treeline.  The plants we saw were never more than a foot or two from the waters edge.

Another common name, “Chatterbox”, refers to the tendency of the lower petal, or “lip”, to move vertically when the flower is bumped, or shaken by the wind.  Several stalks of chattering blossoms bobbing in the breeze is quite a sight (and a challenge to photograph).

These are some of the most delicate and sublime wildflowers we’ve seen. While we wonder how many we may have overlooked on past hikes, we’re hopeful that, like so many other wildflowers we’ve encountered, now that we’ve been introduced to their habits, we’ll be seeing much more of them in the future.

Other native northwest orchids we’ve posted can be found here.

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Along the Trask River, Tillamook County, OR, 7/2020.

 

One response

  1. Lovely!

    July 15, 2020 at 11:36 pm

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