HUNT FOR THE ELUSIVE WILD ORCHID (Chapter 2 of 4)

Small Round-leaf Orchid on the Pic River

Small Round-leaf Orchid on the Pic River

2 – The Showy and the Plain

My brother John has spent much of his life near the Pic or canoeing and boating up and down it. His trapline embraces a good chunk of it. He has worked felling trees for a company whose licence encompasses the Pic. He has prospected the area. In short, he knows the Pic.

The day before, he had guided Sue and Mike to a site on the Pic where he knows wild orchids hide out. They had walked a good mile from his trapper’s cabin to the Pic, and then more or less floated downriver, searched the woods, and then paddled back for an hour.   It was a successful search. Even I don’t know where they went.

But on this Friday, I would know where the orchids were lurking. However . . . every naturalist is protective about orchids.   They are relatively rare in this region of the boreal forest. For an enthusiast to pick an orchid, or to dig one up and try to transplant it at home, spells doom for the plant.

And, as I said, orchids are rare in this region.

And they are not always easy to recognize. The wildflower books say there are 20,000 species worldwide. Some, as you know, are showy. Especially the spectacular orchids found in tropical climes or cultivated in greenhouses. But most are definitely not plants to write home about.

Bunchberry (aka Dwarf Cornel) on the Pic River.  No one writes home about this common flower.  Member of the Dogwood Family.

Bunchberry (aka Dwarf Cornel) on the Pic River. No one writes home about this common flower. Member of the Dogwood Family.

The most showy orchids in our region are lady’s slippers. When you see one in the bush, you gasp. But, as Sue implied, and as I said, you do not pick it if you care about it.   You gasp and keep your mouth shut. Maybe lead a friend to it, a friend you can trust to keep his mouth shut. And not pick it.

It is no crime to be an orchid hunter. It is a crime to be an orchid picker.

I will not tell you where we found orchids on this trip. Suffice to say that we stopped at selected places on the Pic and searched and gasped. Our lips are sealed. And our minds have bloomed with beauty.

In fact, on the Industrial Road, before we reached the Pic, John had stopped to let us roam a site where he had found Yellow Lady’s Slippers. We found them, but they were past their blooming phase. Pity.

Yellow Lady's Slipper

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

But we were after a much more interesting species. “It’s a disjunct species,” Sue explained. Its natural habitat is the Arctic regions. To find such a plant in the hinterland of the Lake Superior region is quite a find.

We were hunting for the Franklin’s Lady’s Slipper.

Yes . . . named after that Franklin.

The famous Arctic explorer.

That elusive Arctic explorer.

104b - d J Franklin portrait

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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