Another Unusual Find at Gordon Meadows

Back in 2007, I spotted an odd-looking coralroot at Gordon Meadows. It wasn’t until I got home and compared my photos to references that I realized it was the rare northern coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida). I would have taken more time to study it had I realized it wasn’t just an odd-looking spotted coralroot (C. maculata), which does vary a bit. Sometimes it is yellow rather than red, and sometimes it doesn’t have any spots. Northern coralroot is droopier and a more greenish yellow. On a number of subsequent trips, I’ve tried to relocate it unsucccessfully. There have been coralroots blooming everywhere I’ve been lately, so I thought it might be a good time to try again.

Moneses uniflora has many common names, including one-flowered wintergreen, single delight, wood nymph, and shy maiden. The latter might not seem very descriptive, but when you see the little nodding heads, it seems quite appropriate. This little perennial is only a few inches tall and is hard to spot in the shady woods.

Sabine Dutoit and Nancy Bray accompanied me to Gordon Meadows on July 24. Sabine hadn’t been there in 3 years, and it was a totally new place for Nancy. As we drove through Sweet Home, it was still completely overcast. I hadn’t given up hope that we would be going far enough east to get past the Valley fog, but my mood was not great. Then, just as we were coming to the turn off onto the long gravel road, the clouds disappeared. It was actually quite warm at the trailhead and almost too bright after all the clouds lately. Things were looking up, and as we headed down the trail, I was in such a positive mood that I said to my companions, “I think we’re going to find something exciting today.” Not long after, before we had even gotten down to the level of the wetlands, there it was—a small white flower sitting above some evergreen foliage. I started babbling as I do when I get excited but was finally able to say “It’s Moneses uniflora!”. This is an ericaceous species formerly considered a Pyrola. This wasn’t so exciting to Sabine who used to live up north in the Portland area, but I’d never seen it in the Western Cascades before. It is a plant of cool, damp places and is found scattered along the coast, around Mt. Hood and a few other High Cascades sites, and in the Wallowas. Last year, Nancy and I found a patch of it in some damp woods at the edge of Ollalie Meadow near Mt. Jefferson while looking for gentians. That was the first time I’d ever seen it in Oregon. Nancy and I relocated the new spot on our way back to the car and spent some time trying to see how large the population was. We eventually counted over 20 flowers in a space about 20′ x 20′. We were really lucky that several blooming plants were right by the trail or we would never have noticed it. And if it hadn’t been blooming, it would have been near impossible to find. No wonder I hadn’t seen it before although I’d passed by the spot over a dozen times.

White bog orchid (Platanthera dilitata), elephanthead (Pedicularis groenlandica), bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), and California false hellebore (Veratrum californicum) abound in the main meadow.

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys) is one of many non-chlorophyll plants in the heath family. It is mycoheterotrophic, meaning it gets its nourishment through a fungal connection with the nearby conifers rather than from sunlight.

We also spent a while trying to relocate the northern coralroot but to no avail. The area I’d seen it originally was more open than before. Some of the trees had been cut. It was hard to tell if they’d been removed on purpose or if they had fallen over and been cut to clear the trail. Either way, it may have changed the habitat enough that they aren’t there anymore. Or perhaps they just aren’t blooming this year. It was actually hours before we saw any coralroots, some spotted ones alongside the trail by the largest meadow. Oh well, I already got my one big thrill of the day, so I wasn’t as disappointed as I might have been otherwise. And there were other orchids. The white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata) were blooming beautifully in all the wet meadows, and the western twayblade (Listera caurina) were abundant in the woods.

We did find a clump of pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea) not yet blooming, loads of pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys), and some blooming bog pyrola (Pyrola asarifolia). It really is an excellent place for plants in the heath family (Ericaceae). There are 5 species of huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.)—although they weren’t blooming or fruiting on this trip, Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), fool’s huckleberry (Menziesia ferruginea), alpine wintergreen (Gaultheria humifusa), and slender wintergreen (G. ovatifolia). So, especially with the discovery of the one-flowered wintergreen, Ericaceae was the star family of the day.

An unfortunate damselfly had fallen victim to the sticky leaves of the sundew. The bright green moss-like foliage is that of bog clubmoss (Lycopodiella inundata). The little white flower bud is a sundew flower, perhaps closed for the afternoon.

Sitka clubmoss (Lycopodium sitchense) with unripe fruiting bodies (strobilus).

Another interesting group of plants we encountered were the clubmosses (Lycopodiaceae). There are six species in Oregon, and we saw three of them. There was a great deal of the most common species, ground-pine (Lycopodium clavatum). It grows in many places along the trail, especially along the smaller, western wet meadow area. There is an opening that the trail crosses through that must be much moister than it appears. It is covered with both ground-pine and its smaller cousin, Sitka clubmoss (Lycopodium sitchense). There was also a vast amount of blooming bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis). That was flowering along much of the trail—one of the highlights of the day. After exploring the northern edge of the main meadow and the eastern meadow, Sabine was tired, so she headed back to the car. Nancy and I went to check out the boggiest part of the meadow along the south edge. Since this is north-facing, it is the last place for the snow to melt out. It has a different suite of species and is worth visiting any time of year. We found a very easy way to cut through to the meadow without bushwhacking. In addition to masses of round-leaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata), and alpine or bog laurel (Kalmia latifolia—another ericaceous plant!), there is quite a bit of the rare bog clubmoss (Lycopodiella inundata) in this area. Nancy and I spent a while looking for northern starflower (Trientalis europaea ssp. arctica), another uncommon northern plant that finds this habitat cool enough for its needs. We found many of the little plants, but, alas, all the flowers were finished. No luck finding Parnassia flowers either, as they hadn’t started yet. More reasons to come back to this wonderful wetland!


Leave a Reply

Post Categories
Notification of New Posts