Yellow or Orange Flowers
Lily-like Leaves )
Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)
Season: May to August
Habitat: Montane Moist Woods
Height: 15 to 40 cm
Description: This conspicuous orchid is instantly identifiable by its striped spike of orange orchid-like flowers. The orange stem rises erectly, terminating in a cluster of 15-25 orange-white, orchid flowers striped with purple. There are no leaves. This plant doesn’t use chlorophyll to produce food, and thus doesn’t need leaves. It's fibrous roots spread through the forest litter, and have a symbiotic relationship with saprophytic (living on dead material) fungi.
Flower: Coralroot orchids are distinctive in their waxy appearance and lack of any discernable leaves. Striped coralroot flowers occur in a small terminal spike (raceme). Each individual flower has an arching petal (tepal) that forms a hood, four lateral petals that and a prominent tongue. The petals all have three purple stripes. The lower tongue shaped lip is purple.
Fruit/Seed: The leaves are contained within 12-25 mm hanging, elliptical capsules.
Similar Species: Spotted coralroot (C. maculata) may be slightly taller (20-50 cm), with the flowers arranged in a terminal raceme. Each reddish-purple to white flower has three arching tepals, two lateral wings and a descending tongue. The tongue is white with purple spotting and has an irregular tip. In addition, the two outer arching tepals may also exhibit purple spotting. Pale or Yellow coralroot (C. trifida) is a smaller plant, generally between 10-30 cm in height, and has more diminutive flowers. The flower spike (raceme) displays between 3 and 20 small flowers. Each yellowish-white to dull purple flower has a single arching tepal rising above and two lateral wings. The tongue is quite small and is usually white. It may show some purple or red spots.
Range: Striped coralroot is common throughout central and southern British Columbia and east through the Rockies, the Province of Alberta and all the way to Quebec. It's southern range extends to California and east to Minnesota and New York.
Notes: The eastern Iroquois had many uses for spotted coralroot. They pounded the roots to make an infusion to ward off witches. Another infusion was used to treat tuberculosis, while yet another served as a love medicine. The roots were placed in water and used to wash bows and guns to provide assistance to the hunt.
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