The Red Bog Orchids

orchid Dragon's mouth orchid in a bog by the BLT trail close to Cranberry Lake, June 24, '09. The flower is about 3 cm long.
Flashes of pink or crimson red in bogs of The Bluff Wilderness Trail and by the BLT trail this time of year could be one or more of three red bog orchids.

Mention orchids in Canada and people commonly think you are talking about orchids from a flower shop, most of which were obtained originally from species that grow epiphytically on trees in the tropics. The orchid family, however, is hardly so restricted, occurring in almost all regions of the globe from the Antarctic to the Arctic and boasting over 20,000 species. All of the temperate orchids are terrestrial and grow directly on the ground (rather than epiphytically on other plants). Nova Scotia is a bit of a hot spot for temperate orchids, with forty species; 39 are native, one was introduced and naturalized (spreading on its own).

Amongst the most common locally are the three "red bog orchids" shown at right. They are common in part because bogs are the most common type of wetland in N.S. and this is a wet province! The red bog orchids are seen from about mid June to mid July, sometimes by the hundreds. In Nova Scotia, we tend to take these lovely plants for granted but they are endangered in many of the areas where they occur elsewhere.
orchid Flowers of the northern pitcher plant, June 24, '09.

Not orchids, but also prominent in the bogs this time of year are the large flowers of the northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea). These plants trap insects in their pitcher-like leaves and digest them to obtain nutrients that are otherwise very sparse in bogs.

Carl Munden's: Native Orchids of Nova Scotia: A Field Guide (University College of Cape Breton Press, 2001) is a nice guide to N.S. orchids. It includes colour photos for all species, descriptions, and where and when to find them in flower.

Click on images for larger versions.

Arethusa bulbosa, dragon's mouth orchid. This species is found only in bogs. The only other member of this genus occurs in Japan.

Calopogon tuberosus, Grass pink orchid. Common in mature bogs close to the sea.

Pogonia ophioglossoides, rose pogonia. Found mostly in mature peat bogs, less commonly in other wettish habitats.

Posted for WRWEO by David P, June 25, 2009.