A book review by Viateur Boutot

"Promoting the enjoyment of nature is a contribution to the mental well-being of humans - a greatly underrated medicine."
(Paul M. Catling, foreword to Orchids of Manitoba)

An inspiring book titled Orchids of Manitoba: a field guide [2], written by a group of authors [3], was recently published by Native Orchid Conservation Incorporated (NOCI), an organization formed in 1998 [4].  Not only do the authors provide a wealth of information about orchids of the Canadian province, they also share their thoughts on orchid conservation. 

The first impression when one handles the book is its most convenient size, a pocket book that anyone serious about finding North American orchids in situ would feel necessary to carry along in a knapsack.  That is not to say that you would feel free to be careless with the book: it is lavishly illustrated with 220 photos so, it should have a place of honor in a collection of orchid books. 

Each genus is introduced with an etymological note (origin of the name), a brief text, and photos. 

Likewise, for each species, the authors provide an etymological note, details about its abundance (or rarity), the habitat, the flowering time, a description, tips for identification, and comments.  Photos depict each species, and distribution maps are included.  One could regret that the authors found it unnecessary to give earlier synonyms for the majority of species since, in the literature, some species were published under different genus names and epithets. 

After the main section dedicated to each of the 36 species occurring in Manitoba, a table of flowering times (between May and September) is presented.  It should prove very useful to those who wish to go out in the field and look for orchids. 

Fig. 1 The cover of the book, published in Winnipeg (Canada) by Native Orchid Conservation Inc.  (Photo and design by Lorne Heshka)

History:  The English botanist William Jackson Hooker was the first curator of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.  In 1839 he was the first to record orchids for Manitoba.  He noted that the following species had been observed near Lake Winnipeg: the ram's head lady's slipper (Cypripedium arietinum), the small yellow lady's slipper (C. calceolus var. parviflorum) and the heart-leaved twayblade (Listera cordata). 

By 1909, 19 species had been listed for Manitoba, including the small purple fringed-orchid, Habenaria psycodes (now Platanthera psycodes).  Since the northern part of Manitoba has not yet been completely explored by botanists, it is quite possible that more orchid species, varieties, or forms might eventually be listed for Manitoba. 

In the middle of the 1980s, in the south of the province, Paul Catling found two species that were not known before to occur in Manitoba: the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthara praeclara) and the Great Plains ladies' tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum). 

A total of 36 species in 14 genera [5] have been recorded in Manitoba up to now. 

A manifesto for orchid conservation:  If the information about orchids of Manitoba contained in the book already makes it a great contribution to the literature about orchids of North America, we should also be grateful to the authors for providing a most complete review of orchid conservation initiatives in the province.  These actions should be an inspiration to both organizations and individuals concerned with the conservation of native orchids. 

The authors dedicate a few chapters to the conservation of orchids and their habitats in Manitoba and Canada.  Although the examples given are specific to Manitoba, readers interested in the conservation of orchids in their province or state would easily relate to the concerns and the means used to protect the habitats and the populations of orchids therein. 

A most interesting chapter is dedicated to orchid habitat.  The characteristics of the microhabitats (forest - coniferous (Figs. 2, 3), mixed wood, and deciduous; prairie - tall grass and mixed grass; wetlands (Fig. 4); tundra; and disturbed areas) are described and illustrated with photos. 

Fig. 2 Cypripedium acaule is adapted to a dry acidic microhabitat found atop a granite outcrop in a coniferous forest.  (Photo by Lorne Heshka)

Fig. 3 Cypripedium acaule thrives in the shade, with adequate moisture, conditions found in a jack pine forest, on well-drained sandy soil.  (Photo by Lorne Heshka)

Fig. 4 Arethusa bulbosa, the single species of the genus, occurs in the boreal regions of eastern North America.  (Photo by Lorne Heshka)

In the introduction to the book the authors note that most orchid species have very specific habitat requirements, and disturbance of their environment might have adverse effects on the population.  The motivation of the authors for writing the book is clearly stated: "To raise awareness of Manitoba's native orchid species and the need for their conservation."  Further, it is stated that "habitat conservation and public education go hand-in-hand". 

The approach privileged by the authors is refreshing.  It goes against an attitude that too often prevailed in the past based on the assumption that the happy few know best what is good for the rest of the humanity.  If we could think that such an elitist attitude is limited to some narrow spirits who live in peripheral areas, away from the centre of the world, one should remember that, even in presumably advanced societies, it has been a too common slant: "field botanists have often jealously guarded the locations of rare flowers such as orchids, keeping them to small networks"[6]. 

NOCI, an organization for the conservation of native species:  The publisher of the book, NOCI, wishes to foster an awareness of native plant species.  In a section of the book dedicated to conservation and biodiversity, the authors mention that the small white lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum) has now disappeared from some parts of Manitoba [and from all of Saskatchewan] where it was previously known to occur. 

Historically, vast parts of the virgin prairie and wilderness were cleared by early settlers for agricultural purposes.  Later, deforestation and flooding for hydroelectric projects have destroyed habitats and, consequently, the populations of orchids.  In wetlands, habitats have disappeared as a consequence of drainage.  Additionally, the collection of wild orchids depletes orchid populations. 

In Manitoba, the three following orchid species are now considered to be endangered:
1) The small white lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum)
2) The western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara)
3) The Great Plains ladies' tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum). 

In the foreword, Paul M. Catling stresses the fact that Manitoba has the largest population of the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) left in the world. 

Scientific Name Common Name
Arethusa bulbosa Dragon's mouth
Calopogon tuberosus Grass-pink
Coeloglossum viride Long-bracted orchid
Corallorhiza maculata Spotted coral-root
Corallorzhiza trifida Early coral-root
Cypripedium acaule Mocassin-flower
Cypripedium candidum Small white lady's slipper
Cypripedium parviflorum [calceolus] var. pubescens Large yellow lady's slipper
Cypripedium reginae Showy lady's slipper
Liparis loeselii Loesel's twayblade
Malaxis unifolia Green adder's mouth
Platanthera dilatata   (See Fig. 5) White bog orchid
Platanthera hookeri Hooker's rein orchid
Platanthera lacera   (See Fig. 6) Ragged fringed orchid
Platanthera orbiculata Round-leaved rein orchid
Platanthera psycodes Small purple fringed orchid
Pogonia ophioglossoides Rose pogonia
Spiranthes lacera Slender ladies' tresses
Spiranthes magnicamporum Great Plains ladies' tresses
Spiranthes romanzoffiana Hooded ladies' tresses

Manitoba and Indiana:  For orchidophiles living in Indiana, the book should prove to be a useful tool since 20 of the 36 orchid species found in Manitoba also occur in that Midwestern US state.  Of course, Indiana orchid aficionados have been blessed with Michael Homoya's excellent book, Orchids of Indiana, published in 1993 [7], but the book from the Canadian authors should be most interesting and of great assistance to both orchidophiles and specialists in field excursions, even in Indiana. 


Fig. 5 Uncommon in Manitoba, Platanthera dilatata also occurs in Indiana: one of the rarest species of the state.  (Photo by Ian Ward)

Fig. 6 The flowers of Platanthera lacera are fragrant in the evening.  The species is very rare in Manitoba but it is the most common of its genus in Indiana.  (Photo by Lorne Heshka)

It would be nice if such a valuable book as Orchids of Manitoba: a field guide would be available for each Canadian province.  Hopefully, scientists from elsewhere in North America will soon produce such treatments of our native orchid species as Michael Homoya did for the US state of Indiana [8].  Providing knowledge of the latter may be one of the best contributions one can make to their conservation. 

Readers will realize that the book is not only a useful tool to learn more about native orchids but also a strong manifesto that encourages a dynamic attitude toward the conservation of orchid species.  Everyone concerned with the conservation of wild orchids in North America should read this book. 

The native orchid conservation spirit is alive and well in Manitoba.  Let us be inspired ! 


1. The name Manitoba may be derived from the Ojibwe word manitobah or the Cree word manito-wapow.  Both these terms make reference to the Lake Manitoba Narrows as the strait of the spirit.  The accepted lore is that the roaring sound produced by waves breaking on the shores of the narrows was a spirit or manito beating a drum.  In aboriginal culture, a manito is a supernatural power that permeates all things and is present in all aspects of nature - at times taking on the role of guardian or spirit helper."  Source:

2. The book (ISBN 0-9734864-0-6 - Winnipeg [Manitoba, Canada], 2005, 158 pages) is available directly from Native Orchid Conservation:  or from Librairie Pantoute:

3. Doris Ames, Peggy Bainard Acheson, Lorne Heshka, Bob Joyce, John Neufeld, Richard Reeves, Eugene Reimer, and Ian Ward. 

4. See an article published in Orchids (The Magazine of the American Orchid Society): Moore, Charlotte Ann, "A Special Report / Wild Orchids of Southeastern Manitoba: Conserving Habitat," September 2003, pp.650-651.  See also the organization's web site:

5. The authors indicate: "We have two separate varieties in two of these species for a total of 38 varieties of orchids" (p.10).  The list titled `Flowering times for Manitoba orchids' contains 36 names, including Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin and Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (pp.146-148).  In the section `Species Accounts', the authors mention that two varieties of the species Corallorhiza maculata (var. maculata and var. occidentalis) occur in Manitoba (page 65).  [Editor's note by ER: the authors regard Listera auriculata as being present in Manitoba and yet, for the most part, ignore it;  two paragraphs in the Listera genus account explain the situation.]

6. McCarthy, Michael, "Flowers: The wild bunch", The Independent (London, UK), 23 July 2005. 

7. Homoya, Michael, Orchids of Indiana, 1993, Indiana Academy of Science, Bloomington/ Indianapolis, 281pages. 

8. Some other orchid books published about specific provinces or states:

Brackley, Frances E, 1985, "The Orchids of New Hampshire" in Rhodora [Journal of the New England Botanical Club] 87 [January (849):1-117]. 

Cameron, Jean Wallace, 1976, Orchids of Maine (1976), University of Maine at Orono Press, Orono, 80 pages. 

Coleman, Ronald A, 1995, The Wild Orchids of California, Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 201 pages. 

Luer, Carlyle A, 1972, The Native Orchids of Florida, The New York Botanical Garden, New York, 361 pages. 

Smith, Welby R, 1993, Orchids of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 137 pages. 

Summers, Bill, 1996, Missouri Orchids, Missouri Departmment of Conservation, Jefferson City, Missouri, 112 pages. 

Whiting, R Emerson and Paul M Catling, 1986, Orchids of Ontario, An llustrated Guide, CanaColl Foundation, Ottawa, 169 pages. 

Winterringer, Glen S, 1967, Wild Orchids of Illinois, Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois, 130 pages. 

On the internet:

Wakeford, Donna and Ray V Rasmussen, 1999, Wild Orchids of Alberta:

Jeffrey T Hapeman, 1996, Orchids of Wisconsin: An Interactive Flora:

Viateur Boutot of Montreal, Québec (Canada), kindly serves as the International Correspondent for the LOS Newsletter. 

© 2006, Lafayette Orchid Society.  Reprinted by Permission.  Originally published in the April/May 2006 issue of the Lafayette Orchid Society Newsletter, Vol 8, Issue 7.  Charles Bracker, Editor.