Rattlesnake Orchid Seed Capsules

As fall approaches and the blooming season comes to an end, all of the spectacular wildflowers are disappearing. Or are they? We may not have the colorful flowers. Yet the remains of those spring and summer beauties are unique and beautiful in their own way. This year one of my goals is to learn to recognize the wildflower “leftovers”.

Recently, while hiking along the North Umpqua Trail (Oregon) near the Boundary Water, I found rattlesnake orchids (Goodyera oblongifolia) with both an immature inflorescence  spike and a spike with dry, spherical fruit capsules. To see the rattlesnake orchid flowers check the previous post on this orchid.

Dry fruits that open and release their seeds when ripe are dehiscent, as in these rattlesnake orchid capsules. This is called a “typical” capsule because the capsule dehisces along lines of fusion.  The seeds are scattered by wind or when the capsule gets shaken by an animal or human in passing. The open seed capsule with its slightly twisted panels is beautiful in its stark simplicity.

These pictures show the basal rosette of leaves that are typical of a rattlesnake orchid, also called a rattlesnake plantain. The orchids with both the growing and dry spike were thriving on the top of a decaying log which was completely covered with moss and other vegetation.

It is time to begin to adjust my orientation from the riot of colors associated with spring and summer wildflowers to their fall and winter remnants.

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