Native Orchid News:
The Newsletter of Native Orchid Conservation Inc. 
Volume 9 Issue 3   May 2007
ISSN 1499-5476

Striped coralroot - photo by Eugene Reimer Native Orchid Conservation Inc.
117 Morier Ave, Winnipeg MB R2M0C8
www.nativeorchid.org

For more information contact Doris Ames at 204-947-9707 or e-mail adames@mts.net

Field-Trips:  Dates and Locations

Plant of the Month:
Striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata)

 

President's Report - by Doris Ames

Spring is here at last and this issue includes our 2007 Fieldtrip Schedule.  I hope you will be able to come with us on some of these outings.

The Manitoba Orchid Society orchid show was a great success.  We met many interesting orchid-lovers over the three days and our display on our Seed-bank initiative won first prize in the Educational-Display category.  Thanks very much to the volunteers who came out to help.

We have an upcoming presentation at the new Millennium Library on Thursday April 26 at 7pm in the Buchwald Room.  We will show our slide-show Orchids: Beauty in Diversity.

We are holding an extra special fieldtrip as part of our Orchid Festival on Sunday June 17 at Senkiw, Manitoba.  Please be sure to attend and a special welcome to all fathers and grandfathers on their special day!


Plant of the Month

Striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata)

by Doris Ames

The botanical name for this genus comes from the Greek words korallion meaning "coral" and rhiza meaning "root" and refers to the branched underground rhizome that resembles coral.  The species name comes from the Latin word striatus meaning "striped" in reference to the markings on the floral parts. 

 

 

This uncommon orchid is found in clearings in upland coniferous or mixed forests.  It prefers dry to moist soils with a weakly acidic to neutral pH.  Striped coralroot is found in the south-east part of the province and through the Parklands region to the Saskatchewan border. 

The fleshy, leafless flowering stems, 15-45cm tall, emerge from the underground rhizome, often appearing in large, showy clumps.  The raceme consists of ten or fewer striped flowers that are best viewed from ground level.  Their drooping sepals and petals are off-white in colour with purplish-red stripes, which gives the plant its characteristic candy-cane appearance.  The swollen, elongated lip is purplish-red with dark purple stripes.  The compressed column curves over the lip showing its terminal yellow pollinia. 

Striped coralroot blooms from late May to early July and prefers cool soils.  Parasitic wasps are believed to be the pollinators.  The large, ribbed, pendant (blossom-end down) seed capsules are initially light pink with white stripes but turn dark brown as they ripen. 

Coralroots have interesting growth habits.  They spend most of their lives underground only periodically emerging to flower on stems with very tiny scale-like leaves.  This kind of lifestyle does not allow them to produce much sugar by photosynthesis so they have learned how to tap into the mutualistic relationships between trees and their specific mycorrhizal fungal partners.  They host these same mycorrhizal fungi in their roots and thereby share in the sugars produced by the trees.  Their underground rootstocks can remain dormant for many years and that means flowers may not appear every year in the same location. 

The unusual lifestyle and the habit of the dorsal sepal to hang downward obscuring part of the flower makes striped coralroot a challenge to photograph, but if one is lucky enough to find a large clump of flowering stems glowing like rubies in a beam of sunshine then the rewards can be very great.