I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Manitoba Orchid Show, where along with other photographers were allowed to enter this venue an hour before the public, in order that we could bring our tripods and not have people tripping over them. There were a lot of beautiful orchids set up for judging, most of which I had and still have no idea about. I do own a Hybrid Phalaenopsis Orchid, but am by far no expert in this area, and much prefer the orchids I find in the wild in Manitoba. So this got me thinking I should write about the wild orchids that are native to my Province, versus the cultivated ones that I saw at the Orchid Show.
Phragmipedium Hybrid Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg.
This beautiful Slipper Orchid, was in my opinion, the queen of the ball and one of the most photographed and shared on social media by my peers. Phragmipedium Dragon’s Light is most likely what this orchid is named and originated in South American Tropical climates. It is tiny compared to some of the other cultivated slipper orchids that I saw, and one of my favourite orchids of the day.
Large Yellow Lady's-Slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) (Var: pubescens)
The Large Yellow Lady’s-Slipper is a common slipper found growing wild throughout much of southern Manitoba and would be about the same size as the Dragon’s Light cultivated orchid above. The biggest difference between these wild slippers and the cultivated slippers, that I have found are two-fold. The ones growing in the wild, have only a 1 to 2 week window in which the flower is in bloom, whereas the cultivated orchids, the flowers are often in bloom from 1 to 2 months. The second thing being that the wild flowers have adapted to nature and are fairly tough when it comes to weather conditions and the cultivated ones seem to be more delicate, preferring to remain in one place most of the time.
Paphiopedilum Hybrid Slipper Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show.
This Paphiopedilum Slipper Orchid (Paph for short) was the largest slipper orchid that I saw at the Manitoba Orchid Show, with this one easily being 5 inches in height. This particular slipper is the Maudiae type, which is the most popular of the Paphs. it is often called the Venus Slipper and there are 80 accepted species of this orchid, which is found growing in tropical Asian climates. It was definitely another of my favourites from the morning photo-shoot.
Ram's Head Lady's-Slipper (Cypripedium arietinum)
My very favourite of all the Slipper Orchids that are native to Manitoba is the Ram’s Head Lady’s-Slipper. As compared to the Paph above, this rare Manitoba orchid is the smallest of our lady's slippers, being about the size of a dime. Again, with only a 2 week window to find the flower in bloom, usually in late May to late June, it is not a flower that is easily found growing in the wild. I have only seen this flower twice in the years that I have gone looking for it, and as many of our native slippers, they are very slow growing and can take several years from the time the seed germinates to the time a flower appears.
Hybrid Phalaenopsis Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show 2018 at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg.
This Phalaenopsis Hybrid Orchid, is very similar to what I am growing in my home, called Phal for short, it originates in tropical climates of Asia. It is likely the most popular and hybridized of all the cultivated orchids. Due to it’s shape it is known as the Moth Orchid. You can find 60 different species of the Phal orchid being grown and sold throughout the world. It comes in an array of colours from pure white to light and dark shades of pink to white blending into pink as with this one.
Showy Lady's-Slippers (Cypripedium reginae)
The Showy Lady’s-Slipper, another native orchid of Manitoba, is easily recognized by it’s large flowers that are pink and white, with a rare white form sometimes found growing among the other slippers. This slipper is listed as uncommon, but common in local areas. Although not as many growing in the ditches and fields as I have seen in past years, there are still a fair number of these regal flowers found in southern Manitoba.
Phalaenopsis Cornu-Cervi Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg
This Phal, often called the Deer Antler Moth Orchid originates from Southeastern Asia and India. Deer antler moth orchids thrive in hot tropical climates and require bright filtered light for good growth and flowering. It is a true epiphyte ( a plant that grows on another plant but is not parasitic) that grows best mounted on a tree trunk, cork slab or nestled in a slatted basket or pot. I found it to be quite unique compared with many of the other orchids that were being shown.
Long-Bracted Orchid (Coeloglossum viride)
Long-Bracted Orchid that I found in Southeastern Manitoba. This orchid is one of 37 that is native to the Manitoba wilderness, and one of those, that you might never notice if you didn't know what you were looking for. It takes a keen eye to spot these and if not careful one might just mistake if for another plant or common weed and step on it. I was fortunate to have a "Nature Ninja" with me for this trip, who showed me not just this Orchid, but many more in the Cedar Bog and ditches that lead to it.
Dendrobium Oriental Smile Hybrid Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg
I found this orchid to be quite striking, with a very soft look to it. It originates in Southeast Asia and is another popular orchid that is used to create various hybrids of the original. And like the Deer Antler Moth Orchid, the Dendrobium is also a true epiphyte. I have not seen any orchids in Manitoba that look like this cultivated one does, which tells me that the northern orchids growing in the wild, other than the likenesses of the slipper orchids, and perhaps one of our fringed orchids, have a totally different look to them than those originating in tropical climates.
Small Round-Leaved Orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia)
Another very tiny orchid native to Manitoba is the Small Round-Leaved Orchid. The orchids have a short spike of 5 to 15 flowers, each of which is 9 to 12mm long, with a 5mm nectar spur. To see the dots on these tiny orchids, a macro lens would be nice to have, or carry a magnifying glass with you. They grow in moist coniferous forests and cedar bogs, and can be found growing from late June in the south, to mid July in the north. It prefers a cool environment to thrive and establish proper growth.
Oncidium Intergeric Hybrid Orchid from the Manitoba Orchid Show at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg
This orchid is possibly either a Vuylstekeara, Odontocidium or Odontobrassia hybrid, but again, I am not as familiar with the cultivated orchids as those that grow in the wild in Manitoba. Another my favourites from the Manitoba Orchid Show this year, this species originates in the Americas, most likely from South America, but can also be found in Central America. And as with a couple of other orchids that I have shown here, they too are epiphytes, often found perched on trees, but not as a parasite.
Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara)
The Western Prairie Fringed Orchid is Endangered and Protected right across Canada. The only place you can find it in Canada is in Manitoba at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, a protected area of Southeastern Manitoba. This is a first sighting and photo of one of these very rare beauties for me, so definitely one that I was happy to find. This orchid comes in second place to me, just slightly behind the Ram’s Head Lady’s-Slipper. There are many others that I have yet to find growing wild in Manitoba, which will keep me busy for years to come.
So there you have it… Orchids growing wild, native to Manitoba, or cultivated orchids that some of us buy and grow in our homes. Each of these has their own place and each of these has unique features and beauty to make them sought after and cherished by those who spend the time either finding and photographing or buying and growing, but either way, we nurture them and they in turn nurture each of us.