September 26, 2021
Why go flower chasing when most of the flowers are done blooming for the year? Because finding flowers even far gone to seed will help us know where to locate them next year to catch them in bloom.
Kelly had seen Great Lakes gentian gone to seed, a flower on our wish list, when she was up on the north shore earlier in the week, so we headed north together so I could see them, too. At a spot off highway 61 not only did we find the seed heads and distinctive gentian leaves of Great Lakes gentian (gone even more to seed), we also saw a few late nodding ladies’-tresses nearby.
Our next north shore stop was Cascade River State Park where last winter we’d found a stalk poking up through the snow that we tentatively identified as “some kind of orchid.” We’d missed getting to the north shore this summer to see what kind of orchid it might be when it bloomed, but even this late in the year we still hoped to find enough clues to identify it. We found the stalk easily, and although the flowers had withered, the two wide leaves at the bottom of the stalk narrowed our choices to Hooker’s orchid or lesser round-leaved orchid. Next year we’ll plan a visit to see it blooming in all its glory.
Another surprise: not only were the fall leaves turning, but color scattered across the forest floor as well. Bunchberry leaves were now deep red with green-edged veins, sarsaparilla leaves had turned a soft coral, and a few blue beads of bluebead lily stood up on stalks. Who knew these spring wildflowers held so many colors of fall?
A search the next day for a different kind of ladies’-tresses led us over rocks, through woods, and up and down hills until we found the plant, again long gone to seed but one that we’ll come back to see blooming next summer. And what’s not to like about a hike through the woods where moss covers boulders and maples leaves burn red under pines?
Our final sojourn led us far, far down a dirt road to an even narrower dirt road where asters, goldenrods, and pearly everlasting still bloomed. We left the car and followed a railroad track to another railroad track to a power line cut, in hopes of one last ladies’-tresses sighting of the weekend. Here our luck ran out, but we still had an enjoyable hike way into the back of beyond.
Even when flowers are long done blooming we love the places our searching takes us and the splendid time we get to spend out of doors under a wide blue autumn sky.