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Monday 26 July 2010

Orchids are Us

Banff National Park
Banff National Park - Click for larger

It happened years ago, right here in the Rockies back in 1998. I spotted a Sparrow’s-egg Lady’s-slipper and screamed, “EUREKA!” Franklin's Lady's-Slipper
Franklin's Lady's-Slipper - Click for larger

There has been no turning back ever since. We are obsessed with orchids. Everywhere we go we are constantly watching for them. Hunting for them. There will be some amazing vista, perhaps a snow-capped mountain reflected in a turquoise lake, but we’ll be staring at the ground pointing at little wisps of things and getting excited. It’s not that we don’t notice the scenery. After all Ron considers himself a landscape photographer first.Bow Lake, Banff
Bow Lake, Banff - Click for larger

He’s even still looking along the path when running to the edge of a mountain lake to capture the scene while the light is good. But when the mountains aren’t lit up and it is just a bright but overcast day (when it’s best for wildflower photography) that’s when we start the hunt in earnest.

The obsession started out slowly with just a general interest in wildflowersArctic Poppies, Banff
Arctic Poppies, Banff - Click for larger

-especially rare or endangered species. Ron had even photographed a few orchids previously, such as these beautiful Showy Lady Slippers he found on the Bruce Peninsula. All that was before - back when I had another life and a real job. I couldn’t accompany Ron on many of his photo journeys back then. But in 1998 I was on vacation and Ron had just shot this scene in Jasper of a double rainbow over the Athabasca River. Walking back to the car I noticed a tiny wildflower and Ron told me it was a Small Round-leaved Orchis. To me the tiny little blooms looked like rag dolls hanging on a stem wearing bonnets and polka dotted dresses.Small Round-leaved Orchis
Small Round-leaved Orchis - Click for larger

Seeing them made me wonder what other orchids were found in the Rockies. So we purchased the field guide “Plants of the Rocky Mountains” and while flipping through its few pages about orchids I noticed the Sparrow’s-egg Lady’s-slipper and that was it. We were hooked. We just had to find that Lady’s-slipper. Happily we did and the rest is history.Franklin's Lady's-Slipper
Franklin's Lady's-Slipper - Click for larger

It’s not that the Rockies are noted for orchids. We’ve found and photographed many more species in Canada’s eastern provinces. The mosquito-infested bogs of Newfoundland and the East Coast seem to be particularly abundant with delicate species such as grass pink, dragon’s mouth, and white fringed orchis. Earlier this summer we visited Purdon Conservation Area near Perth, Ontario to photograph Showy Lady’s Slippers. Again. It’s become an almost annual pilgrimage to see them in bloom. We just can’t seem to get enough of them.

Part of this trip was even planned around orchids. We tried to get to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Southern Manitoba in time to see Western Prairie Fringed Orchids in bloom. They are only found in that small area of Manitoba in Canada. They and their eastern counterpart (found only in southern Ontario) are listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as endangered species. We knew however that we had already missed the Small White Lady’s Slippers – another endangered species that we’ve photographed there before.

When we arrived in Banff a couple of days ago we wondered if we would find the very beautiful Calypso Lady’s Slippers in bloom here again. We really started to get our hopes up when Ron first found some Small Round Leaf Orchids and then I spotted a big patch of Sparrow’s Egg Lady’s-slippers.

As for the Calypsos? We weren’t disappointed!Calypso
Calypso - Click for larger

Calypso - Click for larger

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Anonymous Marta said...

I love this post because I love orchids too! Although I must admit, I don't have the experience of seeing them like you do. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing the beautiful photos. And hey! Nice to hear from you again!

26 July 2010 at 21:59  
Anonymous Cynthia said...

Glad you were able to find the Calypsos! Lovely photos and post.

27 July 2010 at 20:47  

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