Field Trips South – Native Orchid Conference, Manitoba, Canada — 2017-06-05 thru 2017-06-08

At this year’s annual Native Orchid Conference symposium in Manitoba, Canada, the two day’s field trips were in opposite directions from our headquarters which were at the South Beach Casino and Resort in Scanterbury. The 60 attendees were separated into 4 groups of 15, and each group was assigned a list of orchid sites to visit for the day. Two of them were “South” and two of them were “North”. I was in the “South” Group. Each group was further divided into 2 sub-groups, and we switched locations at about 1:00 pm so that we would each see all that there was to see in the area. Whew! If you think that is complicated, you should have been there when we were separating into the 4 groups! Seems like an easy thing to do, but it’s not. It’s the “herding cats” thing. But I digress…

The first area that the first sub-group of the “South” group visited was near the village of Woodridge. We arrived on time (10:00am) at a local tavern after a 2-hour drive from the Casino and configured our caravan for the initial adventure out into the field. After agreeing on whom to follow, we proceeded down an EXTREMELY dusty road and finally arrived at the first of the orchid sites. Here, we saw some great (and very dark) Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids. The Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids in the south are medium to light pink, but these were a deep, raspberry pink — a color I had not seen since our trip to Newfoundland, Canada a couple of years ago. Here is an example of that deep color:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady’s-slipper orchid

These were growing in a grove of pine trees, and yes, that is pine pollen all over the flowers and leaves. I found myself having to wipe the LCD screen on the back of my camera every minute so that I could see the image in live view. Much sneezing and coughing ensued over the morning. Here are some additional images:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid

I did manage to find one flower that was more typical in color of the ones I’m used to seeing in my local area:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady's-slipper orchid

After spending good time with these wonderful orchids, we were led across the road to see more of them. In addition, we found several Goodyera tesselata or Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain orchids spiking about 10 days ahead of being in full bloom. These were extremely difficult to spot, because the leaves were mostly under the pine straw, and the leaves were of a muted tone. Here is one of them (below left) and one in full bloom taken at a recent NOC symposium held in Minnesota (below right):

Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain orchid Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain orchid

I finished photographing the Goodyera tesselata and had enough time left to shoot a few images of a gorgeous, yellow wildflower, Lithospermum canescens or Hoary Puccoon. This would not be the last time we would see these golden beauties:

Hoary Puccoon Hoary Puccoon

After an hour or so at this location, we gathered our gear and headed west to another spot for additional exciting specimens. We parked along the dusty road and entered the dense woods. After a short hike, we came upon several large patches of Galearis rotundifolia formerly Amerorchis rotundifoliaRoundleaf orchid. All but a couple of the plants were still in tight bud, but we managed to find a good one with open flowers. It’s knows as “roundleaf” orchid because it has a single, round-ish leaf:

Roundleaf orchid

Roundleaf orchid

We also located a couple of Neottia cordata formerly Listera cordataHeartleaf Twayblade orchid:

Heartleaf Twayblade orchid Heartleaf Twayblade orchid

To top off the list, we also found a number of the tiny and curious-looking Cypripedium arietinum or Ram’s Head orchid:

Ram's Head orchid Ram's Head orchid
Ram's Head orchid Ram's Head orchid

Ram's Head orchid

As we were packing up to head to the Tall Grass Prairie site where sub-group 2 attendees were currently located, we took time to photograph a beautiful, yellow Castilleja species or Indian Paintbrush. We had been seeing red/orange ones scattered along the roadside, but this one was so different that we decided to photograph it. Note that the bright yellow petal-like structures are actually bracts. The flowers are those yellow-ringed, green cylindrical structures nestled behind and below the bracts:

Indian Paintbrush

On my way back to the car, I almost stepped on a fine specimen of Coeloglossum viride or Large-bracted Frog orchid just a step away from the roadbed:

Large-bracted Frog orchid Large-bracted Frog orchid

After spending time with this new discovery, we took a brief time to eat lunch, then we headed west to switch places with the other “South” group at the Tall Grass Prairie site.

We arrived at our prearranged meeting spot and met the guide. After a short introduction and explanation of the area we would be visiting, she led us to the site for the rare, Cypripedium candidum or Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid. This particular species is so rare in Canada that it is considered endangered, and its sites are protected. The flowers are quite small, compared to some of the other slipper orchid species that we were able to photograph. The size of the white lip pouch is about the size of the last joint of your pinkie finger or about the size of a wren’s egg. There are just a few sites for it in Manitoba, so it was a special treat to be able to photograph it in peak bloom. Here are some shots of these orchids:

Small Lady's-slipper orchid

Small White Lady's-slipper orchid Small White Lady's-slipper orchid
Small White Lady's-slipper orchid Small White Lady's-slipper orchid

We even found a double-flowered stem:

Small White Lady's-slipper orchid

and a group of several blooming plants:

Small White Lady's-slipper orchid

This was the end of the “official” first field trip day. But we were not finished. Being at a higher latitude, the day was still young, providing much light for photography. We had sketchy directions to another site farther north, but it was on our way back to the conference headquarters, so why not give it a try? We traveled back up the road as a group caravan and stopped at a Dairy Queen in Steinbach to get ice cream and/or milkshakes. It was just right to cool us off from being in the hot sun all day. After finishing this break, several of us decided to check out that other unofficial site while the others decided to head on back to the Casino. So, we parted ways and took off north to the intersection of Hwy. 12 and Hwy. 15.

Heading east on Hwy. 15, we soon came to the site in question. It was marked by some survey tape on a dead tree in the woods. We parked, gathered our gear, and headed across the rather expansive road side margin to the edge of the woods. We quickly found the location of about 3 dozen Platanthera hookeri or Hooker’s Bog orchids. Now before you get yourself titillated over the name, the specific epithet honors Sir William Jackson Hooker, an eminent early nineteenth century English botanist, not that other thing that you first thought about…

I had never had the opportunity to photograph this species, so it was a real treat for me. The flowers, which reminded me of the old-fashioned ice hook, were in perfect shape. And they were situated in a scattered group within a pair of fallen logs. Here are a couple of habitat shots:

Hooker's Bog orchid

Hooker's Bog orchid

This is what the flowers look like a bit closer:

Hooker's Bog orchid Hooker's Bog orchid
Hooker's Bog orchid Hooker's Bog orchid

Hooker's Bog orchid

Not until we were heading back to the car did we notice that there were dozens of Ram’s Head orchids blooming in the mowed area between the woods and the highway. We must have stepped on some of them on our way into the woods. They are tiny and very difficult to see in the grass. Here are a few shots of the ones we found at the Highway 15 site:

Ram's Head orchid Ram's Head orchid

Ram's Head orchids

We finally finished up at this super site and began our way back to the Casino. But we had to stop when I saw a bright orange drift of flowers along the roadside. It was a huge patch of bright red/orange Castilleja species or Indian Paintbrush. These were so bright that they would have been hard to miss:

Indian Paintbrush along the roadside

While I was standing among these brightly colored flowers, I thought that an overhead shot would be appropriate:

Indian Paintbrush

A fitting shot at the end of the day as the sun was setting…

This was a day full of orchids and good friends. I think that attending the symposium is as much about spending time with old friends as it is about orchid presentations and good food — although there is a lot to be said about the latter two items. During the trip south and back north to the Casino, we spent a good deal of time discussing photography techniques and secret orchid locations. To an orchid geek, this is pure paradise. If you are a passionate student and photographer of native orchids, you will know exactly what I mean.

The next and final episode of this field trip coverage will include our “North” field trip. Stay tuned…



  • Chris Davidson

    As always, a wonderful read and filled with loads of beautiful photographs Jim!

    June 12, 2017
  • Lee Casebere

    Ditto what Chris said!! Looks like you had a great time! You sure took some dandy photos, but I expected that!! :-))

    June 12, 2017
  • Skip P

    I’ll ditto what Chris and Lee said! Wonderful. I must be a little passionate about orchids based on your description at the end šŸ™‚

    June 12, 2017
  • Jen Mod.

    I’ve been enjoying the tour of Manitoba!

    June 12, 2017
  • Penny Firth

    This post was such a treat! Thank you.

    June 12, 2017
  • Kathy Gregg

    Hey, Jim, As usual, great photos, a real treat for me to see these flowers again but from your talented prospective. Did you not see the yellow lady’s slippers at the Highway 15 site? They were near the ram’s heads. The reason I ask is that we saw some pale yellow to cream-colored ones there that I thought might have some C. candidum genes in them somehow. Ron and Ben showed up while Carl and I were there and thought they might just be sun-bleached yellows, but some of them looked non-faded to me. If you saw them, what did you think?

    June 12, 2017
    • Jim

      We did see one large group, but I too think they were bleached a bit, especially because they were in full sun. Just my $.02…

      June 13, 2017
  • Marcia C Whitmore

    Just gorgeous!…and I’m still kicking myself for not being there!

    June 13, 2017
  • sonnia hill

    Gorgeous, Jim.

    June 18, 2017
  • Rose

    Three weeks later, Jim, just west of the highway 15 site, in the fen are now blooming rose pogonias! Hundreds, then eastwards in the ditches are hundreds of showy’s.

    June 27, 2017

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