Naturalist Corner : Stream Orchids
By Tim Sattelmeier
Epipactis gigantean, sometimes called “stream orchid” is not really that big. Each bloom would fit nicely in the palm of my hand. This orchid would normally be found in very wet habitats rather than in the high desert of North Western Colorado in Dinosaur National Monument along the Yampa River.
This particular orchid is growing a little way up the canyon cliff in a small alcove far from any side stream. It is however on the north side of the Yampa River. Because the geologic layers have a small tilt southward in this area enough that the back of the alcove is moist and even damp from water percolating down. It comes through the Weber sandstone and then running on a bedding plane in the big Aeolian formation. This extra water allows the orchid to continue blooming into June most years and survive in the alcove as part of a little hanging garden that includes some tiny white Columbine as well.