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

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, this year’s Native Orchid Conference symposium’s field trips included sites both South and North of the headquarters at the South Beach Casino and Resort in Scanterbury, Manitoba. The final day of the symposium, I was in the group heading North. The “North” group would be split into two sub-groups: one heading to the village of Woodlands and the other heading to the village of Rembrandt. I use the term, “village” very loosely, because they are pretty much just a crossroad with a couple of buildings. In any case, the field trip sites were near these villages.

Our sub-group of about 15 attendees gathered in the parking lot of the Casino and headed out early in the morning. At 8:00 am, the sun had already been up for 3-4 hours, so light was not a problem, except for photographers who would hope for an overcast sky. There were a few clouds, but they were high and thin; not very conducive to light dispersal.

Orchid geek stuff follows: We were headed to the Woodlands site where we had been told we would see the rare Cypripedium candidum or Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid and the uber rare hybrid between it and Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens or Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper. The hybrid is named, Cypripedium Xandrewsii. Although most references mention Cypripedium parviflorum without a variety qualification, the ones we were supposed to see were definitely crossed with Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens. Confused??? Well, maybe after you see the images of both putative parents and the resulting hybrid cross, perhaps it will become clearer.

Our leaders/guides for this leg of the day’s field trip were Catherine and Ben Rostron. They are from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Ben is next year’s NOC president. He was also responsible for doing all of the behind-the-scenes legwork to get this year’s symposium off the ground. Many thanks for all of his hard work and for the effort put into the symposium by the numerous volunteers — especially the local guides.

We followed Ben and Catherine in our 5-car caravan and arrived to the site after a couple of hours of departing the Casino parking lot. The site was an open roadside bordering a plowed farm field. There was some discussion that the farmer intended to spray the field for weeds, but would wait until there was no wind. Riiiiight…… These plants are on private property, not public land, so the strength of protections that would go along with orchids in provincial preserves are not as firm. We all hope that the plants will not be affected by the herbicide, but who knows? These plants are national treasures, so maybe there will be a time when the property is ceded over to the government for suitable protection.

The plants were barely visible in the grass across a deep, but mostly dry ditch. We got our of our vehicles and gathered around Ben who explained the delicate nature of the site. The very worst thing we could do would be to trample the plants, so he pointed out how he had marked them with survey tape. Descending the ditch bank from the road actually took us through several clumps of Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids, and we were cautioned to avoid these clumps. Here is a shot of several of the attendees photographing the orchids which were growing on the far side of the ditch bank:

Photographing orchids in Manitoba, Canada Photographing orchids in Manitoba, Canada – Ben Rostron (standing), Chariya Punyanitya (kneeling), Walter Ezell (prone)

As I mentioned, our goal was to find and photograph the naturally occurring native hybrid, Andrews’ Lady’s-slipper orchid. We did find it, and here is a shot of this beauty:

Native orchid hybrid, Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid

Here is a montage of three images showing parentage and resulting hybrid cross: (left) Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid, (center) Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid, and (right) Andrews’ Lady’s-slipper orchid.

Two parent orchids and the resulting hybrid cross

So, let’s look at one of the orchid species that is the parent to the hybrid cross. The tiny, bright white-lipped Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid is very rare and therefore protected in Canada. In a previous post, I indicated that the slipper lip is about the size of the last joint of your pinkie finger or about the size of a wren’s egg — less than 1 inch (2.5cm) long. I’ve actually seen them half that size, but those were outliers. We did see several clumps of this species, and here are some shots:

Group of Small White Lady's-slipper orchids

Group of Small White Lady's-slipper orchids

Group of Small White Lady's-slipper orchids

As you can probably tell, these were about 5 days past peak bloom, and some of the flowers were already beginning to turn brown. I did manage to find a few flowering stems that were in pretty good shape:

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

And we did find one flowering stem with two flowers — a double!:

Double-flowered Small White Lady's-slipper orchid

The other parent orchid species is the Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid. It is about 2 to 3 times the size of the other parent, the Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid, and it is in peak bloom about 5 to 10 days past the peak bloom of the Small White Lady’s-slipper orchid. That is one reason that natural hybrids between these two species are so rare. The other reason, of course, is that the Small Lady’s-slipper orchid is very rare, itself. However, obviously, they share the same pollinators species — bees. Here are some images of the Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid:

Large Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid Large Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid

Large Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid

Now, let’s look at some of the natural hybrid orchids that these two parents produce. I must say that this hybrid cross is one of the most beautiful natural hybrid Lady’s-slipper orchids I’ve ever seen. The creamy yellow color of the lip and the golden sepals and petals cause it to rival any other natural North American hybrid Lady’s-slipper orchid, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to photograph it:

Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid
Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid

Andrews' Lady's-slipper orchid

What a day! And we still had one more site to visit. We finished up with these lovelies and headed on toward the last site of the day. This was near the village of Rembrandt. After passing the turnoff and doing a U-turn in the highway, we finally made it to the meeting point. As we pulled up behind the red car we were looking for, we saw several others in the group that had already made it to the meeting point. Several of them had big grins, so we wondered what they had found. Mark Rose pointed to an area just on the other side of the gravel road and indicated that we should waste no time retrieving our camera gear. What we soon saw was a very large clump of Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin or Northern Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids:

Small Lady's-slipper orchids

Here is another view:

Small Lady's-slipper orchids

I didn’t count them, but I was told that there were 28 flowering stems in this clump! What a show!

Our guide for this leg of the field trip, Rose Kuzina, resident of Winnipeg, was a real treat. She gave us a running narrative as she led us across a water-filled ditch and into the deep woods. We would be finding more Northern Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids as well as some fine examples of Cypripedium arietinum or Ram’s Head orchid. For a species which I had never photographed at peak bloom, the latter species seemed to be at almost every field trip stop we made. How fortunate for us!

Far into the dense woods, we came across an area which provided several good photographic opportunities for both species. Here are a couple of shots of the perfect flowers of Northern Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids. First, a double-flowered specimen:

Double-flowered Northern Small Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid

Next, a beautiful single flower:

Northern Small Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid

Scattered here and there were numerous examples of the Ram’s Head orchid:

Ram's Head orchid Ram's Head orchid

Ram's Head orchid

Finally, as we were wrapping up and about to head back to our vehicles, Walter Ezell caught a shot of Rose and me talking about what a great time we had out in the field:

Rose Kuzina and yours truly in the woods of Manitoba, Canada

What else can I say about this particular field trip day… I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did. Each time I attend one of the symposia of the Native Orchid Conference, where ever it might be held, I leave with a glow that stays with me until the next meeting. Seeing old friends and new orchid species in the field is something that I look forward to each year. If you have a passion for native orchids and their associated wildflower neighbors, you must consider becoming a member of the organization and attending the annual symposium.

Next year, it will be held in Annapolis, Maryland and hosted by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC). It promises to be an exciting time filled with informative presentations and (hopefully) a visit to the facilities of both organizations. At this point, the dates have not been firmed up, but they will probably be in late July or early August of 2018. So, go ahead and join the Native Orchid Conference and get ready for next year’s symposium. It’s easy — just go to the link, click on the MEMBERSHIP button, scroll down, and print out the Membership form. See you there!

Until next time,

–Jim

18 comments


  • Tony Willis

    Three superb posts from the conference,the cypripediums are wonderful as are the other pictures.

    Thank you

    June 13, 2017
  • Ben R

    Great set of posts, and photographs, Jim!

    Glad you enjoyed the orchids. I heard back from the local NOCI members who visited the Woodlands site a day ago, and they said with all the warm sunny weather that the plants had all finished flowering… we timed the Conference almost perfectly!

    (also, I think all the small yellow’s are var. makasin in MB, I don’t think var. parviflorum makes it that far north).

    cheers

    Ben

    June 13, 2017
    • Jim

      Thanks, Ben. I just was not sure of the identification of some of them.

      June 13, 2017
  • Lovely Jim. Thanks for your time telling us all about it.

    June 13, 2017
  • Lovely Jim. Thanks for your time telling us all about it.
    Wish I could have been there.

    June 13, 2017
  • Rose

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jim! It was a completely enjoyable time.

    June 13, 2017
  • Jim

    Back when C. parviflorum var. pubescens and C. parviflorum var. parviflorum were separate species (and C. parviflorum var. makasin was yet to be described), the hybrids between C. parviflorum var. pubescens and C. candidum were named C. x favillianum and those between C. parviflorum and C. candidum were C. x andrewsii. Any comments out there on what the naming is.

    And to me, C. parviflorum var. parviflorum is a more southern (not too far south, Nebraska will do out west, east ?) and it is a more woodland species, vegetatively fairly large but small flowered (compared to C. parviflorum var. pubescens).

    June 13, 2017
    • Jim

      Thanks, Jim! I had wondered about that. Cyp. candidum is a species I’m not familiar with, but I’m quite sure that the other parent at that site is Cyp. parviflorum var. pubescens, so I guess I’ll have to reconsider what I called it. I just went with what I was told.

      June 13, 2017
    • Daniel Mcclosky

      All hybrids of Cypripedium parviflorum with C. candidum are C. × andrewsii, regardless of the particular variety of C. parviflorum that served as a parent. If you want to specify a particular variety of C. parviflorum as one of the parents, you can use nothovarieties of C. × andrewsii. From the entry in Flora of North America:

      Nothovar. andrewsii = [C. candidum × C. parv. var. makasin]
      Nothovar. favillianum = [C. candidum × C. parv. var. pubescens]
      Nothovar. landonii = [C. parv. var. parviflorum × C. × andrewsii nothovar. favillianum].

      June 14, 2017
      • Jim

        Thanks, Daniel. I’m beginning to come to that conclusion although I’ve heard from others who say it should possibly be C. Xfavillianum. One study done on these particular hybrid specimens concluded that there was not enough genetic difference between the two C. parviflorum varieties in the area (C. parviflorum var. parviflorum apparently doesn’t make it to Manitoba) to require a distinction other than C. Xandrewsii. Personally, I saw only C. parviflorum var. pubescens in immediate association with the C. candidum.

        June 14, 2017
  • In clumps, the orchids are quite beautiful…..but, oh my word…..your close-ups steal the show. Sounds like a great trip.

    June 13, 2017
  • Becky Kessel

    Simply speechless at the abundance and beauty of the orchids- thanks for sharing!

    June 13, 2017
  • John Neufeld

    Jim you are the Maestro of wild flower photography. Thanks for sharing and giving the rest of us inspiration to try to do better.

    June 14, 2017
  • Cathy Bloome

    Awesome photos again Jim!

    June 14, 2017
  • Daniel Mcclosky

    So beautiful! I’ve read that sometimes C. × andrewsii flowers will change color from yellow to white as they age, which can result in plants that have a mixture of white and yellow and ivory blooms, all on the same plant. Did you see any like this? They look uniformly pretty to me.

    June 14, 2017
    • Jim

      We did not see any color varieties, even slight ones, at the site on the previous trip south where there were no obvious Cyp. parviflorum varieties. All Cyp. candidum pouches appeared to be uniformly white even after they began to turn brown around the edges.

      June 14, 2017
  • Catherine

    Technically Jim the Cyp crosses are located on public land, as it is the right of way along the road. The farmer’s field is private land and he has the right to manage it. He was receptive to the information we gave him and it is certainly in his best interests of farming to control herbicide drift.

    Loving your posts and amazing photos!

    June 15, 2017
  • Jim – wonderful as always! I’m trying to contact you but the link you provide isn’t working – it’s saying “invalid captcha” but there’s no place to respond to one. Anyhow, will you be in the Asheville area anytime soon? I’d love to meet you sometime. Which weekend is best for the orchids at Mt. Mitchell? Anything else to look for in the area?

    June 21, 2017

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