Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve – Native Orchid Conference, Manitoba, Canada — 2017-06-05 thru 2017-06-08

This year’s annual Native Orchid Conference symposium (the 16th one in 16 years) took us to an area northeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, near the southeast shore of Lake Winnipeg. The conference was held in the facility of South Beach Casino and Resort in the village of Scanterbury, Manitoba. The symposium began with a reception on Sunday evening (2017-06-04) in one of the two large ballrooms. The highlight of the evening was getting re-acquainted with friends whom we haven’t seen since the previous symposium. This social gathering is always fun, and it has become an event that we all look forward to attending.

For those of you who have not attended one of the NOC’s symposia, they consist of two days of enlightening and educational presentations as well as two days of full-day field trips to local areas to study and photograph native orchids. This year, the “official” NOC field trips included visits to several sites, one of which was Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve. I could go on and on about this very special place, but instead, I will provide the official link. This is a wonderfully informative website, and is chock full of internal links (see the menu on the left of the home page) that fully explain the mission, inception, and on-going activities of the site. The NOC attendees visited this site in 2005 when the symposium was held in Winnipeg. However, the lengthy boardwalk had not been built then, so to our “delight”, we tromped around in the calf-deep boggy areas photographing the orchids in the woods and bog. The boardwalk currently allows visitors who are not so passionate as we orchidophiles are, to see and appreciate the natural heritage of the area.

It is important to note that Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve is overseen by Debwendon Inc., a non-profit organization formed in 2007 to promote and preserve the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve, raise public awareness of the historic cultural connection between the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and the Brokenhead Wetland. In the Ojibway language, debwendon means “trust”.

Much volunteer effort has been expended by another organization, Native Orchid Conservation Inc. (NOCI) which is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In June of 2016, they published the 2nd edition of “Orchids of Manitoba: a field guide” — a wonderful guide to the native orchid species, many of which we saw during the symposium field trips.

Of course, most of our endeavor was to locate and photograph the native orchids of this special place, and there were two species, in particular, that I wanted to photograph. The first of these was Corallorhiza striata var. striata or Striped Coral Root orchid:

Striped Coral Root orchid Striped Coral Root orchid

We saw quite a few specimens of this species in really fine shape. I had hoped to see the legendary large clusters of flowering stems, but the most stems I saw were three in a loose group. Nevertheless, for this blogger, it was a spectacular showing. I had photographed this species in California at one of the NOC symposium field trips, but the flowers were a much lighter color. These were dark red and appeared to glow in the occasional beams of sunlight that penetrated the dense woods. The following is an image of one of the lighter-colored California specimens:

Striped Coralroot (California)

Here are some additional shots of Striped Coral Root orchid from Brokenhead Wetlands Preserve:

Striped Coral Root orchid Striped Coral Root orchid
Striped Coral Root orchid Striped Coral Root orchid
Striped Coral Root orchid Striped Coral Root orchid
Striped Coral Root orchid Striped Coral Root orchid

As you can see, especially from the previous two images, these orchids were in all states of maturity from just coming up from the ground to being in full bloom.

Here is that group of three that I mentioned previously:

Striped Coral Root orchid

One orchid species that we saw in large numbers was Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin or Northern Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert on they Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids, especially the ones in northern North America. This may actually be Cypripedium parviflorum var. parviflorum or Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid. In any case, I’ll use the name of the former when showing images in this blog report. We saw some beautiful groups on each and every field trip location — that’s how plentiful it is in the region. Here are some images of this striking species:

Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid

Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid
Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid

Northern Small Lady's-slipper orchid

One orchid species I had photographed only in Newfoundland a few years ago was present next to the parking lot, just a short distance into the woods. It is Dactylorhiza viridis formerly known as Coeloglossum virideLongbract Frog orchid. The “Longbract” term refers to the long, leaf-like structure associated with each flower:

Longbract Frog orchid

Longbract Frog orchid Longbract Frog orchid

Another orchid species with greenish flowers is Corallorhiza trifida or Early Coralroot orchid. We saw a good many of these on our field trips, but most of them were past peak bloom and already forming seed capsules. Here are a few shots of this tiny beauty:

Early Coralroot orchid

Early Coralroot orchid Early Coralroot orchid

Near the Early Coralroot orchids were several scattered groups of another northern orchid species, Galearis rotundifolia formerly known as Amerorchis rotundifoliaRoundleaf orchid. I ended up going to Brokenhead Wetlands Preserve about five times during the field trips and whatever free time we had at the symposium. Just remember that in mid-summer, there is adequate sunlight until about 9:30 pm each day. The first time I went, the Galearis rotundifolia was only in bud. By the last day, several of the flower stems were in full bloom — fortunately for us photographers. Here are some images of this orchid species:

Roundleaf orchid Roundleaf orchid

Roundleaf orchid

Just over the other side of the boardwalk, we found Neottia cordata formerly known as Listera cordataHeartleaf Twayblade orchid. Even though there were a couple of plants with unopened buds at the apex, I believe we were about a week or so late to see these plants at peak bloom. Their star-shaped flowers with a forked lip are quite interesting when viewed close up:

Heartleaf Twayblade orchid Heartleaf Twayblade orchid

In most populations, it can be found with greenish or reddish flowers:

Heartleaf Twayblade orchid

But, the big surprise of the symposium field trips was the appearance of Arethusa bulbosa or Dragon’s Mouth orchid in the bog. It is not a rare orchid in this region, however, it does not generally come into bloom until at least mid-June. On several trips back and forth to Brokenhead Wetlands, several of us were able to find about 10 of them in bud or in full bloom:

Dragon's Mouth orchid Dragon's Mouth orchid
Dragon's Mouth orchid Dragon's Mouth orchid
Dragon's Mouth orchid Dragon's Mouth orchid

Dragon's Mouth orchid

There was one area next to the boardwalk that showed us about 3 dozen flower spikes jutting out of the ground. This species is Corallorhiza maculata or Spotted Coralroot orchid. Here is what we saw in bud:

Spotted Coralroot orchid in tight bud

This is what they will look like when in full bloom:

Spotted Coralroot orchid

Too bad for us that we were about 10 days too early to see them in full bloom…

There was another orchid look-alike that kept grabbing our attention when we came across it — Polygala paucifolia or Gaywings. This wildflower species does come down into northern South Carolina, and I have photographed it on earlier visits to the mountains, but they were so pretty that I couldn’t help myself. They grow prone to the ground and a large patch of them is very attractive. Here are some close-ups:



Other attractive wildflowers include the ever-present Cornus Canadensis or Bunchberry also known as Ground Dogwood:

Bunchberry or Ground Dogwood

Another attractive wildflower that just barely makes it south into northern Georgia is Trientalis borealis or Star flower:


A cute little northern wildflower is Linnea borealis or Twinflower. I saw a lot of these, but almost all of them were in seed. But with some persistence, I did manage to find one plant with flowers in peak bloom:


Between the woods and the open boggy areas, there were numerous shrubby plants covered with clusters of showy white flowers. This is a wildflower which is found all over Canada. It is called Rhododendron groenlandicum or Labrador Tea. It gets its common name from the use of its dried leaves to make a delicious brew. On our visit to Newfoundland several years ago, we were served this brew, and we found it amazingly delicious. The catch is that if one consumes large quantities of it over a short period of time, these large doses can lead to cramps, convulsions, paralysis, and, in rare cases, death. The main culprit is terpenoid ledol which may cause kidney failure. In small amounts over an extended period of time, it is considered relatively harmless.

Labrador Tea

One wildflower that really grabbed our attention was Caltha palustris or Marsh Marigold. It is said to be found in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, but I’ve never seen it that far south:

Marsh Marigold

Finally, there was another orchid species that I had failed to photograph in flower. I had seen it in bud and in seed, but never in full bloom. There were numerous specimens at Brokenhead Wetlands Preserve — a few right next to the parking lot. Here is an image of a couple of these tiny, hairy, slipper orchids — Cypripedium arietinum or Ram’s Head orchid. You will be seeing a great deal more of this species in subsequent blog posts:

Ram's Head orchid

Being an active member in The Native Orchid Conference is a wonderful way to see the orchids of North America. Over the past 16 years, the symposium has been held in Florida, California, Arizona, Winnipeg (MB), South Carolina, North Carolina, the Bruce Peninsula (ON), Delaware, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Edmonton (AB), New Hampshire, and Oregon. I probably left out an important location or two, but you get the gist… If you are not a member and would like to participate in our activities, just go to the link at the beginning of this blog post and follow the instructions to become a member.

Until next time…



  • Nancy

    Wonderful flowers and pictures. Marsh marigolds is here in east Tennessee.

    June 10, 2017
  • John Fowler

    Seems that you had a great time.

    June 10, 2017
  • Dylan

    Nice photographs. Seeing them makes me wish I could have made it up for a day or two.

    June 11, 2017
  • Jim Dollar

    Beautiful work–you got every ounce of good out of this trip, which is exactly the way to treat every trip!

    June 11, 2017
  • Tom Mirenda

    Almost as good as being there in person! wish I could have made it this year….magnificent work as usual!

    June 11, 2017
  • Lee Casebere

    What a wonderful trip, Jim! Another enjoyable blog for us readers to digest, and tons of fine photos! Always a pleasure to see what you’ve been up to!

    June 11, 2017
  • Sharon Johnson

    I do so enjoy your marvelous photographs. You give great joy to this old lady who can no longer get out and about as she once did and who cannot begin to duplicate your incredible photographic talent.

    June 11, 2017
  • Marcia C Whitmore

    How I wish I could have gone this year…but had some watercolors at Fairchild so went to Coral Gables and would have been hard pressed to do both….these photos are just amazing!

    June 11, 2017
  • Rosemarie Knoll

    Jim – Once again, thanks so much for sharing your photographs. I look forward to your posts so I can see the latest photographs. Breathtaking as usual. The closeups that you take really help me see the detail of each of these plants. Thanks!

    June 11, 2017
  • Stunning!!

    June 12, 2017
  • Daniel McClosky

    Blogs like this are the best kind of blogs – the ones that make me put down my computer and go outside!

    June 12, 2017
  • Ava Turnquist

    Your photos are spectacular! Thank you for sharing. So would have liked to have attended. How fun!

    June 12, 2017

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