Tag Archives: Wild flower

Discovery Day at Brokenhead Wetlands Interpretive Trail



I led the Steinbach Garden Club to the Brokenhead Wetlands Interpretive Trail today. We saw 10 different types of orchids in bloom, plus 1 that was spent showing just its seed capsule. The Brokenhead Wetlands is one of the premier sites for orchids and other wild flowers in Manitoba. It contains 28 of Manitoba’s 37 orchids.

The 37 orchids of Manitoba range from gorgeous large Showy Lady’s-slippers to Coral-roots that have no leaves and produce no chlorophyll and hence no food. Instead they depend on mycorrhizal partners for sustenance. Manitoba produces 3 Coral-roots. This is spotted Coral-root, my favourite.

The Ecological Reserve contains 23 of Manitoba’s rare and uncommon plants including 8 of Manitoba’s carnivorous plants. If you look carefully you will see 2 of Manitoba’s sundews on this photo. Sundew leaves are covered with hairs that secret a shiny substance to attract unwary insects and then aids in their digestion. This is one of those cases where the plant world turns the tables on the insects, which usually eat the plants. When the hapless insect has been digested all that is left is the dry exoskeleton. I saw one plant that was rolled up around its prey. Later it will unfurl again, leaving the remains to blow away in the wind.


Dragon’s Mouth orchid  (Arethusa bulbosa) was the highlight. It i certainly one of Manitoba’s most beautiful orchids. Last week I went there and was very happy to see Dragon’s Mouth  in glorious bloom. I thought the Garden club would not be able to see them this week. Thankfully, I was wrong. There were even more in bloom than last week and some, very cooperatively, were right beside the boardwalk.


It was difficult to photograph the tiny Small Round-leaved orchid as it was blowing in the wind. Fortunately I found one that was deep in the forest and hence somewhat protected from annoying wind.


The Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) just emerged. This truly is the Queen of orchids in Manitoba.


It was a great day in the bog.

Old Man nearly Dies of Heat Exhaustion but survives to celebrate whats right with the world



I took this photograph of an orchid yesterday and it is already one my favourite orchid images  ever. It is Dragon’s Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa) the star of the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve.        

Yesterday, after I found the Moccasin-flower, that I blogged about, I moved to the Brokenhead Wetlands Ecological Reserve, one of my favorite places in the world. Today it was resplendent.

I met people in the parking lot who assured me there were not mosquitoes in the bog. That was a relief for it allowed me to remove my leggings. It was 31ºC and humid (as bogs always are) so I did not relish continuing in the heat with long pants.  Had I not removed them I feared that tomorrow there might be a headline in the Winnipeg Free Press“Old man dies of heat exhaustion in bog.” Or perhaps “Crazy old man…”

At the edge of the fen I spotted a wonderful Dragon’s Mouth(Arethusa bulbosa) orchid, the star of the show. This was the headliner and for good reason. It is a wonderful flower clad in magnificent pink. This is certainly one of my favorite orchids.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot and number of people I met along the trail. The trail is obviously being well used and everyone I talked to loved the area.   Even the children were interested in the bog. I noticed they spent a lot of time there, often lying on the boardwalk peering down into the bog.


I was surprised to see Small Round-leaved Orchid (Galearis rotundifolia) as it is now called. It looked like the flowers had just recently emerged. I tried to get a photograph but it was very difficult to do that from the boardwalk. What a pity. My photographs were not very good, but it was the best I could do.


This is the smallest of Manitoba’s Lady’s-slippers. A mosquito looks like a giant on it. This is the very rare Ram’s head Lady’s-slipper .  Last year members of the North American Orchid Conference group of which I am a member came here for their annual conference and seeing this was high on the agenda of most attendees.

Today was a strange day. It was extremely hot. So hot I actually stopped photographing Arethusa bulbosa before I really exhausted the Stead site. That is a sin. But I was just plain tired. Added to that, it was windy and I had a lot of trouble getting the right focus.  My recent cataract surgery did not help. Partly that is because my “improved” eye is so much better that my glasses subscription is wrong and that eye is still blurry.  So I had to reject a lot of images. Yet I also captured some  images that pleased me a lot! I am confused, but very happy with the “keepers” I got. It was a great day in the hot bog.

Thus ended one of my finest days in the bog ever. Despite my cataracts, the wind, and excess sun I did my best to capture some images. Today I was able to celebrate what’s right with the world as the photographer DeWitt Jones always recommends. It was all good.



Today I went in search of more orchids. I started out at Belair Provincial Forest. The orchids I was looking for reside in dry pine forests, unlike most other Manitoba orchids. It was extremely hot today. In fact it was so hot even the mosquitos did not venture out. Only mad dogs and orchid nuts go out in the mid day sun.

I found what I was looking for.  Moccasin-flower or Pink Lady’s-slipper as it is sometimes called. I don’t really think they look pink. More maroon I would say.

The name for orchids is derived from the Greek word ὄρχις (orchis)which means testicle. Looking at the moccasin flower you might think you knew why. But you would be wrong.  The name actually was used in reference to the underground tuberoids of orchis that are supposed to resemble testicles.

Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper


Sometimes the stars align. I was just thinking that I had not yet seen the Northern Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin) when I got an email from a friend who said some were blooming just across the road from his home not far from where I live. As soon as possible I headed out.

The Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper is very similar to the Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper. In fact some botanists claim there is only one species. On the other hand some believe that there is a third yellow species with fairly flat lateral sepals.  Don’t think these issues are not important to orchids nuts.  I am a member of Native Orchid Conservation Inc. an organization dedicated to the preservation of native orchids and other plants. a few years ago  a former President of our organization threatened to sue our current President at the time for denying in a radio interview that there was a 3rd species in. Most botanist disagreed asserting there are only 2 species, but our former President was passionate that there were 3. As a lawyer I am of course reluctant to say litigation is not a good thing, but this was pretty ridiculous. The orchid world is filled with fanatics. Thank goodness they rarely lead to jihads.

The Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper is smaller than the Large. That is why some say the smaller ones are just stunted large ones. The Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper also has darker petals and sepals as you can see from my photograph.

Life is good when the world blossoms




Spring is the time for blossoms


These are blossoms from our yard or our neighbour’s yard.


The flower of a plant is the reproductive structure that is found in all flowering plants.  Blossoms are flowers, but the word is usually confined to the flowers of fruit bearing trees such as apples, pears, plums, cherries and the like which bloom particularly in spring. Blossoms are usually white.

Life is good when the world blossoms.



Today I made my third attempt to locate and photograph the lovely native orchid—Calypso or Fairy-slipper. Finally it made its appearance. It was the first orchid of the year. Twice before I drove all the way to the Sandilands only to be disappointed. There was no disappointment today.  as a result, there was rejoicing at the Neufeld residence, sort of like the rejoicing in heaven when the prodigal son returned.

This is a tiny but lovely orchid. Perhaps the most lovely.  I really cannot say which is my favorite orchid. Asking me what my favorite orchid is would be like asking me who is my favorite son or favorite grandchild. But this one is certainly in the running.

One unusual thing about this orchid is that it has only one leaf and that appears at the base in the autumn. It remains green all winter long on the ground at the base of the flower underneath the snow. What is up with that?

Going Back to Heaven: In search of crocuses


It was a beautiful day.  Chris was gone gambling to the USA with her sister Huguette and Nick and Debbi. I was as free as a bird. Not that Chris restricts my movements very much I must admit. So I went in search of the prairie crocuses. The crocus is one of the first of our wild flowers to bloom. And one of the most glorious.

It was my first botany trip of the year in Manitoba. I went on many in Arizona, but that was the most disappointing of years for plants since the drought meant there were very few flowers available and cactuses seem to bloom late. I was sad about that. Very sad.

Crocus or Pasque flower as it sometimes called,  ( Anemone patens var. wolfgangiana) is the floral emblem of Manitoba and (as Pulsatilla hirsutissima) the state flower of South Dakota.  I find it one of the most beautiful flowers, and no doubt have more pictures of it than any other flower.  Every year I say, ‘enough already’ and then next year start photographing them all over again.

I have been thinking a lot about one particular issue this year.  I am coming to believe that plants and animals are not as different as people think. I thought about this because I heard someone on CBC radio refer to “plant and animal nations.” That is a wonderful comment.

This made me think about an exciting statement by Henry Beston:

For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nationscaught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

Is that not just as true of plants? Another kingdomthe scientists say. Scientists classify organisms (life) into a hierarchy that begins with kingdomand works its way ever farther into phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species, in that order.  This can be very challenging.  It is difficult enough for me just to remember the order of the categories. Here’s a mnemonic referring to 16th-century Spanish exploration that might help: King Philip Crossed Over For Gold and Silver.   One I like even better goes like this:  Kings PlayChess On Fat Guy’s Stomach’s.   Sometimes people add another category, ‘Domain’ at the beginning before kingdom.  Then the mnemonic becomes: DoKings Play Chess on Fat Guy’s Stomach’s? Whether it is kingdom, domain or nation, all of these concepts refer to a temporal jurisdiction assigned by us. I will come back to this issue later. I call it affinity.

The day was warm. There were some clouds, but as a photographer I actually wished for more clouds. I would have to use a diffuser to spread out the bounty of the sun. That bounty can create harsh conditions of light for photographers of flowers.  Worse however, was the wind. Wind is not a wild flower photographer’s friend. It was very windy. The wind was a difficult challenge. When I got home I was pleasantly surprised how most of my photos were sharp. My technique in such circumstances is to wait for a lull in the wind. It usually comes but patience is required in abundance. I don’t always have enough of that. Today I did.

Another factor I discovered at the first site I stopped at was dust. The extreme dry conditions and wind sent dust drifting over me after every car passed and there were surprisingly many at this first stop. That was a pity because the crocuses were numerous.  Not only that, the crocuses were big and fat with fine colour. I wondered if this was the best crocus year ever.  I was in heaven (again). I keep going there. It is a nice place.

Cactuses: the glory of the Sonoran Desert

This has been a strange year in the Sonoran Desert, mainly on account of the absence of rain. It was the 4th driest year in about 130 years. Most wild flowers could not manage a bloom at all. Al of the energy of the plants went to survival.

Cactuses usually manage to survive and flower even in a  year of severe drought. The Hedgehog below is one of my favourites.


This year however the cactuses bloomed later than normal. Perhaps that was their reaction to drought.

These are called Claret Cup. The blooming cactuses are the glory of the Sonoran desert. unfortunately, this year I just had a chance to capture a few images late in March.

These were not wild. I found them on my neighbour’s yard. Desperate years call for desperate measures. I am afraid it is next year country again.