I thought I had met most of the residents of my forest (north of Calgary, Alberta) – I’ve been tromping along it’s paths looking at plants and birds and bugs for 26 years! But in early June, I discovered a ‘new to me’ plant – a Striped Coralroot Orchid. I don’t know how long this tiny 13 cm (5 inch) plant has lived here – perhaps for years, or maybe it is a fairly new arrival!
Robert Frosts poem, On Going Unnoticed, exactly captured my thoughts as I looked down on the small clump of beautiful pinky-red flowers – they “… look up small from the forest’s feet“. If I hadn’t been walking in that area at the same moment that a small shaft of sunlight briefly illuminated the tiny plants, I would probably never have found them.
Common Name: Striped Coralroot Orchid
Scientific Name: Corallorhiza striata
Native to: Found in shaded forests and wooded areas across southern Canada and the western and central United States
Growth: Coralroot is a member of the orchid family, with underground rhizomatous stems that resemble coral. It is a non-photosynthetic plant with leaves that are little more than scales on the stems. The Coralroot Orchid in my yard is almost 5 inches tall.
Blooms: It produces a mass of yellowish pink to red flowers, with several darker purple veins giving the appearance of stripes. In my yard, it bloomed in early June.
Comment: The plants get nourishment from dead leaf matter by being parasites of fungi in the soil.