Lichens

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

One of my passions is wildflowers, but the growing season of wildflowers is pretty short here in the West Valley. I have turned to lichens to help fill the void in colder months; it’s a fascinating venture. Neither plant nor animal, lichens are plentiful around here. One source reports there being 2500 species in the Pacific Northwest. Fossil records date them as long as 400 million years ago. Lichens can be found on the ground, on rocks, and on trees – both decaying and healthy. When you go out looking at lichens, I strongly recommend taking a hand lens because some of their most interesting features are almost microscopic!

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Pinedrops’ Three Seasons

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Pterospora andromedea (Pinedrops) early growth 7.03.20

Pinedrops, perhaps named for the sticky texture of its stem, makes its first appearance in woods and clearings near pine trees after many of the spring ephemerals have gone to seed. Its three stages of growth are so different in appearance it would be easy to overlook the fact that they are all the same plant.

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Calypso Orchids

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Although most people think of orchids as tropical plants, Montana is home to 31 species of orchids, almost all of which are found in the western part of the state. In the West Valley area of the Flathead Valley, the orchid you are most likely to encounter is the beautiful Calypso orchid. “Most likely” in this case does not mean common–they’re still a rare treat to encounter on a hike.

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Spotted Coralroot Orchid

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

One of the less common—and certainly one of the most unusual—flowering plants you might encounter in the valley is the spotted coralroot orchid. At first glance it may appear to be dead. It has no leaves, and it can be a deep brown color. But look closely and you’ll find an exceptionally beautiful orchid.

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