When I think of orchids I think of exotic tropical settings. Who knew that we have orchids (as well as hummingbirds and waterfalls) right here in Boulder?
While taking a wildflower hike on the Goshawk Ridge Trail last week I learned about the curious case of Coral-root orchids. Deep in a pine forest we came upon a small reddish brown stalk which upon closer inspection looked like this:
This tiny orchid (Corallorhiza maculata) owes its existence to a lifelong relationship with a fungus that lives in its roots and looks like coral. This frees it from the need for chlorophyll and sunlight because it absorbs carbohydrates and minerals from its fungal partner, which in turn absorbs these vital nutrients from the roots of nearby trees. More about this type of relationship can be found at Fungus Flowers. Evolution rocks!