Native Orchid News:
The Newsletter of Native Orchid Conservation Inc.
Vol 1 Issue 3 September 1999

Native Orchid Conservation Inc.
35 St.Michael Rd, Winnipeg,MB R2M2K7
www.nativeorchid.com
For information on NOCI, contact Bud Ewacha at 253-4741

Upcoming Board Meeting:
Wednesday September 8, 7:30pm at Powerland Computers 562 St.Mary's Rd.
All are welcome to attend.

Orchid of the Month:
Cypripedium acaule (Moccasin Flower)


Spring ended on a very high note for our new organization, when we "stole" the show at the 16th World Orchid Show in Vancouver by winning a First and Second prize in the poster division for our eye-catching and educationally relevant displays. All of a sudden, Orchid groups from across North America were taking notice of the work being done in Manitoba. The summer of 1999 (hard to believe it is almost over!) will be remembered as formative in the history of Native Orchid Conservation Inc.

Here are some of the NOCI facts as we approach the fall of 1999:

Thanks go out to everyone who has contributed so much to getting this organization off the ground.

Cypripediums in decline?

NOCI has been involved in a study involving the Moccasin Flower and covering several geographic areas. We are not sure as to the specific problem but do know that the incidence of healthy seedpod production in the Moccasin Flower as well as several other Cypripediums is very low. It has been noticed that immediately after flowering, large brownish patches develop on the leaves of some plants and the leaves die back. NOCI group members have collected samples of both healthy plants and diseased plants in the Belair Forest Reserve and the Gull Lake study area for laboratory analysis. It is hoped that NOCI will secure funding for a comprehensive study of this condition in the Manitoba Model Forest to understand the long-term implications. We are not sure for example if this is an isolated problem to Belair and Gull Lake or perhaps a trend.

Pollination problems as well as insect infestation difficulties seem to be having an impact in many orchid populations. This was particularly evident in the Gull Lake Showy Lady's-Slipper population this summer where few flowers were in bloom and seedpod production was disturbingly low. It is not possible to attribute these situations to specific environmental factors. Insects, diseases, funguses, are all part of the natural process.

As we approach 2000, we feel it is imperative however that work is done to understand what factors are contributing to stresses on native orchid health and what can be done to achieve sustainable orchid habitat.

Field Trips

As mentioned, NOCI conducted over a dozen field trips in the spring and summer of 1999. These excursions provide an opportunity for members to gain insight into native orchids and their associated habitats. A special Thank-you goes out to Bud Ewacha, Doris Ames, Peggy Johanneson, and Richard Reeves for leading these day trips to all corners of Manitoba (within driving distance of Winnipeg!).

We are particularly pleased to announce that we will now be conducting trips to our new Moccasin Flower study area near East Braintree. We had this area set aside by the provincial government for conservation purposes last year. It contains a healthy array of plants including Goodyera and Spiranthes orchids, Indian Pipe, Pinesap, the Moccasin Flower, and a very nice Blueberry patch!

Some people have had the chance to visit our Sandilands orchid plots, the Gull Lake Wetlands, and other applicable sites. The Sandilands site is based on a Manitoba Government Sustainable Development grant to determine the impact of selective cutting on orchid populations. It involves a large number of carefully measured research plots where Bud Ewacha, Doris Ames, Richard Reeves, and others have spent many hours conducting an inventory of all plant material within and around the plots. This area is essentially a scenic cedar bog containing twelve species of orchids and getting varying degrees of sunlight. The concept being that selective cutting could be quite beneficial to orchid populations.

If you are interested in participating in a field trip, please contact Bud Ewacha. We will shortly be advertising our field trip dates on the web at www.nativeorchid.com and would be happy to have you aboard.

A Word on the Gull Lake Wetlands

For those of you who are new to Native Orchid Conservation Inc, we have reprinted a list of orchids (first seen in our Spring newsletter) found in our Gull Lake Wetlands study. This list emphasizes the considerable inventory of significant and rare plant species that we have in such close proximity to the City of Winnipeg. We believe that it may be more good fortune than careful habitat conservation that has left us with such a legacy. However, we are committed to maintaining the significant habitats that we still have, for the benefit of our children and for the benefit of the environment as a whole.

In terms of what was accomplished by our participation in the Gull Lake botanical inventory study... the following list speaks for itself. If the Gull Lake Wetlands faces a future water management debate related to maintenance of the level of Gull Lake, an environmental impact assessment is a logical recommendation.

Web-editor's Note: The list of 28 native orchid species found in the Gull Lake Wetlands study area, the list of 348 plant species in that area, and the list of 23 rare plant species in that area, are now sections in a separate webpage.


Orchid of the Month (cover photo):
Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule)

This striking lady's slipper is usually found in pine forests with dry, sandy soil. However, it can also be found on rock outcroppings, in wet bogs, and even in deciduous forests. The basic requirement is an acidic, nutrient-deficient environment. The Moccasin Flower is found as far north in Manitoba as the Grass River System with a sighting reported at Paint Lake in 1998. The Moccasin Flower blooms in Manitoba in the May/June period.

Cypripedium acaule is significant for the fact that it is the only lady's slipper having just two basal leaves. It is therefore sometimes referred to as the "Stemless" Lady's-Slipper. The deep pink flower hangs almost straight down from a leafless scape. Its stem that is attached to the leaves is actually underground and not visible. The height of the plant can vary substantially from 20cm to as much as 45cm. The flower is large and the colour develops with maturity. Unexpanded buds for example are almost always white. It is very rare to see a white-flowered Cypripedium acaule, but it does occur.

The wrinkled, pouch-like lip of the Moccasin Flower is a deep pink/wine colour that has a sharp slit in the crease. The slit is actually part of the plant's unusual pollination mechanism. A bumblebee, upon landing on the flower, quickly enters through the slit, but finds that it can't leave as easily. This is because of the way the edges of the slit are infolded. The bee is thus forced to exit at the base of the lip and in so doing brushes against the stigma, depositing pollen where it is needed. The bee then brushes against the anthers to pick up a fresh load of pollen for the next flower.

Moccasin Flower seeds are slow to germinate and the plants are slow to grow in the wild. The plants are thought to have some sort of symbiotic relationship with a fungus underground and undergo long periods of dormancy. The plant takes about eight years to mature and does not transplant well. The Moccasin Flower is the logo of Native Orchid Conservation Inc.