Plant of the Week
Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata)
By Larry Stritch
The striped coralroot orchid is an herbaceous, perennial wildflower with a broad distribution in the western United States and Canada. There is an eastern distribution across the northern United States into upstate New York and Canadian provinces, to the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec province. Striped coralroot orchid occurs occasionally as a single aboveground flowering scape or as numerous scapes from a clone.
Corallorhiza striata (Corallorhiza – corallion – coral and rhiza – root; coralroot and striata – striped) refers to the underground stems, rhizomes, appearing like an ocean coral and the dark reddish-purple stripes of the flower.
Corallorhiza striata attains a height of 10 to 65 centimeters. The leaves are reduced to sheaths surrounding a simple scape (stalk of the inflorescence), pinkish-yellow, salmon pink to reddish purple. Occasionally, there are individual flowering scapes or an entire population is creamy yellow because the anthocyanins (flavenoid pigments) which give this orchid its pinkish-yellow, salmon pink to reddish purple are absent. The inflorescence is a lax to dense raceme of few to numerous flowers. Flowers range from fully open and spreading to converging but not closed. The flowers are variously colored, usually salmon pink to reddish with red to reddish purple stripes, occasionally the labellum is dark, reddish purple without striping; rarely yellow with or without reddish-purple stripes. The fruit is a capsule.
Corallorhiza striata flowers from spring to midsummer. The species occurs in a broad array of coniferous to deciduous habitats in humus rich soils.