A most spectacular native orchid hike is the Lake Blanch Mill B South Trail (L B Mill B) which begins in the lower S-Turn in Big Cottonwood canyon. The best time to go is the weekend nearest to July 15th. The hike is a strenuous 3-miles to the lake. Virtually every step is "up" going and "down" on the way back down. During this hike plan on finding 5 native orchids: Platanthera hyperborea, Piperia unalascensis, Listera convallarioides, Cypripedium fasciculatum. Although they will not be in bloom, the plants rosette form and green and white variegated leaves can identify Goodyera oblongifolia. An immature inflorescence may be present, but not in bloom.
Platanthera hyperborea – There is one large plant at the base of a pine tree with green flowers. The Platanthera should be in bloom and observable from the trail. The pine tree is located in the section of the trail that is still to the right of the creek. You should easily find the Platanthera.
Listera convallarioides – There is a small cove like area where the Listera grows in and around a spring. The spring is to the right of the main trail flowing into the creek before the trail bridge over the creek. The plant is only 1 to 4 inches tall with opposite leaves. Several yellowish green flowers occur on the slender pedicles. These are small but cute plants. Unfortunately this cove is heavily used for rest room purposes. If you cannot see the cove you maybe able to smell it, watch your step!
Piperia unalascensis (Syn. Habenaria unalascensis) – These plants may be found anywhere along the lower two miles of the trail. When in bloom only the Piperia/Habenaria bloom like stems are seen. The basal leaves will be mature and dried up.
Cypripedium fasciculatum – This plant may be the main reason for the hike up (L B Mill B) to the lake. There are only two known populations, the (L B Mill B) population, and the population on the Uinta/Duchesne County line north of Vernal. These are high elevation plants. (L B Mill B) has two separate colonies of the Cypripediums. The first colony is on the lake where the small stream flows into the lake. The second colony is across the outlet stream and about 100 yards or more on the steep mountainside below the big rocks in the spruce/fir trees. You almost need an anchor rope to hang on to the hillside. Cypripedium fasciculatum (Nodding Brownies) – The plants are up to a foot tall and grow in pine and spruce fir duff. The flowers are reddish brown and about 2 inches across. I believe if this plant were used in hybridization with other cypripediums it would add red to the colors; however, I have never seen a reference that this has bee tried.
Goodyera oblongifolia – These orchids occur here too with the cypripediums. They will not be in bloom, but you can recognize them by their rosette form and the green and white leaves.
Corallarhiza’s – Four species are found in Utah. These are exceptionally unique plants because they are saprophytic herbs that lack chlorophyll. The flowers are very colorful. To find, look for a dense spruce fir stand that has no under story plants and deep spruce fir duff on the ground. Look for stem like sticks without obvious leaves. Examine these stems and the flowers will amaze you.
Corallarhiza maculata (Spotted Coralroot) – This is the most common species. Flowers are reddish purple with a white lip. A few reddish spots will occur on the flowers. A cannot miss population is next to the upper most parking lot at the end of the Mill Creek road. An Alba form is next to the trail above the parking lot, others are found along this trail.
Corallarhiza striata (Striped Coralroot) – This is the second most common coralroot in Utah. Flowers are pinkish yellow to whitish tinged flower parts, with conspicuously striped reddish purple.
Corallarhiza trifida (Early Coralroot) and Corallarhiza wisteriana (Wisters Coralroot) – These species grow in nearby counties but I do not have any easily described areas for them. If you find another coralroot orchid take pictures of it or collect an inflorescence from one and bring it to me with the location where you found it so it can be recorded.
Happy orchid observing,