Gals Muck through Swamps to Find Hidden Orchid Flowers
Giant Helleborine orchid
On a clear blue-sky day, but with much wind, three Giggers headed out for an orchid-finding expedition in the Sun River Canyon area. For part of the trip, we had botanist "Ranger" Wayne Phillips along, to help us locate these elusive beauties.
We first stopped to see lady slippers, an area that has both mountain and yellow versions, sometimes crossed. Wayne told us it was the only documented place in Montana with the white and yellow together. He also said that the Sun River Canyon hosted more orchids than anywhere else in the state. The lady slippers were a bit beyond their time and not as plentiful as usual. We noticed many cottonwood trees had been felled as well as weed spraying. We surmised the habitat had been drastically changed as well as the weed spraying possibly killing the fragile plants. We did find one northern green bog orchid in this area.
Then we continued down the road to find some more. We found more green bog orchids as well as the dainty, pink-spotted round-leaf orchid. It's such a special variety.
Then it was off to Hannan Gulch to find the giant hellegorine. After peering down to spot the round-leaf orchid, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find the giants, the plants being 2-3 feet tall and the flowers 10 times the size of bog orchids. We didn't see any lady tresses or white bog orchids as we had hoped, but a few of us had appointments, so we cound't muck around too much in the boggy swampy areas.
We usually see sheep in this area, but no luck today. The other notable flowers of the day were mock orange, owl's clover, wintergreen, lupine, bergamot, and buckwheat.
We left Great Falls at 7 a.m. and arrived home by 3.
Who went: Gail, Jo Ann, Katie and guest Gigger, Wayne