Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae
Western Spotted Coralroot Orchid, Corallorhiza maculata, must be one of the most attractive of the Coralroot Orchids, and like the other kinds of Coraroot orchids that grow in America it is much more robust and easier to spot than its European cousin Corallorhiza trifida.
By far the prettiest of the coralroot orchids that occur in North America, the Western Spotted Coralroot has delicate flowers with brownish sepals and white lips which are covered in deep pink spots.
There are four different 'forms' of Western Spotted Coralroot growing in North America, and their ranges extend from as far north as British Columbia and east to Newfoundland, as far south as New Mexico and they also grow in California, Indiana, Arizona and Virginia. We have found and photographed two in the Rocky Mountains - forma immaculata and the one shown on this page. We have also been lucky enough to find Western Coralroot Orchid Corallorhiza mertensiana, another very attractive plant.
The name coralroot refers to the roots of the Coralroot orchid plants, which are said to resemble coral - not that we have dug one up to prove the point. Coralroot orchids occur in a wide range of habitats from dark forest (where we found this one) to dune slacks and open tundra. Although they produce some chlorophyl (hence some plants are greenish, although many are purple-brown), these orchids are largely saprophytic, depending mainly for their food on the mycorrhizal fungi surrounding their roots. Coralroots are usually self-pollinating.
The pictures shown on this page are of Western Spotted Coralroot Orchid on the Loch Vale Trail in high-altitude woodland, Rocky Mountain National Park during mid-July. The brown stems, petals and sepals are the key to identifying this particular form of Corallorhiza maculata
Philip E Keenan (1998) Wild Orchids Across North America, Timber Press Inc
If you found this information helpful, we are sure you would also like books on the Wild Orchids of Wales, of The Burren, and of the Algarve. Author-signed copies are available here...