Orchids of the Great White North

ladies_slipperGrowing tropical orchids as I do indoors, it’s easy to forget that orchids grow all over the world, and Ontario, Canada is no exception. In one special place, the Bruce Peninsula on Georgian Bay, 44 of 60 of Ontario’s native species can be found growing, more varieties of orchid than any other area its size in Ontario, and possibly all of North America. The latitude, the moderating effect of the Great Lakes (which surround the Bruce on three sides), the calcium-rich soil of the Niagara Escarpment, and the wide variety of habitats found there seem to contribute to the large variety of native orchid species.

I camped at the national park on Georgian Bay about 20 years ago, and still remember the funny little man who came wandering through our campsite, entirely oblivious to us and completely absorbed in inspecting the ground. He was dressed in safari clothes complete with a big hat and khaki shorts, wore round gold rim glasses, and was busy scribbling in a notepad. It was as though Mr. Magoo had come to life in front of my eyes. I couldn’t resist interrupting him and asking him what he was doing. “Looking for orchids”, he replied, and he became very animated as he discovered a ladies slipper not far from our tent. It struck me as an eccentric encounter at the time, but I never forgot that fellow. Years later, I even understand him. Given my interest in orchids, I may even go up there this year for the Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival

The folks at Yahoo Groups’ “Native Orchid Conference” have been very kind in sending me information about blooming times and good locations to look. David McAdoo suggested these areas:

Walker Woods (outside of Sauble Beach)
Oliphant (Federation of ON Naturalists preserve with boardwalk area along the lake shore)
Petral Point (FON preserve near Red Bay)
Alavar Preserve (another FON area along Hwy 6 near Miller Lake turn off – west side of the road)
Dorcus Bay (a FON preserve)
Flowerpot Island