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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Orchids of Colorado

June 12th, 2013 · 2 Comments

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Many people are surprised that orchids grow in Colorado. While they are common in the tropics, we also have them here in the cool mountains.

I have seen only two species of wild orchids in Colorado. But they are probably the most beautiful of at least 33 species of orchids that grow here. Scott Smith has photographs of each of them at Colorado Orchids. By comparison, subtropical Hawaii has only four species of orchids.

Another nature photographer who also lives in Boulder, Rich Wolf, brought those links to my attention. Even more importantly, when Rich found a Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) on the North Mesa Trail last week, he alerted me immediately. Later, he posted his photo essay at “Improbably Parasites on the Mesa Trail.”

I made sure to look for this orchid beauty as soon as I could and found it easily using Rich’s precise directions.

The Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) May Look Tall in this Photo, But They Don't Grow More Than 20" High

The Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) May Look Tall in this Photo, But They Don't Grow More Than 20" High

Click on the picture above to enlarge

This morning I found Colorado’s other exceptionally beautiful orchid. I made sure to return the favor and alerted Rich immediately.

Several stands of Fairy Slipper orchids were growing along the Beaver Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, just 30 miles southwest of Boulder. My friend Nancy and I left Tantra Lake at 5:30 in order to catch first light. The weather was sunny all right, but it was also cold, so cold in fact that both Nancy and I needed to wear jackets and gloves. Since the National Weather Service reported that the temperature had reached 99 degrees in Boulder yesterday, the cold weather in the mountains caught me by surprise.

A Small Stand of Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa)

A Small Stand of Fairy Slippers (Calypso bulbosa)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

This orchid is even smaller than the Spotted Coralroot, growing no taller than 8″. To capture the images below I had to lay down flat with my camera right on the ground.

A Side View of a Fairy Slipper also Known as a Calypso Orchid

A Side View of a Fairy Slipper also Known as a Calypso Orchid

Click on the picture above to enlarge
A Full Frontal View of Another Fairy Slipper Orchid

A Full Frontal View of Another Fairy Slipper Orchid

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The Fairy Slipper is an endangered species, according to Wildflowers of Colorado Field Guide by Don Mammoser. Another book, Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Pocket Guide by David Dahms, says, “You should consider yourself very lucky if you see this spectacular flower.” I am lucky.

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Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan Schinner // Jun 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    We have a home in echo hills off 103 near mount Evans. On our property we have found about a 1 1/2 square patch of the fairy slipper

  • 2 David Mendosa // Jun 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Dear Susan,

    You are so lucky!

    Namaste,

    David

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