Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Interesting Discovery

During my frequent walks through shady forest, I am used to seeing several different types of plants that are not green and, like mushrooms, get their nutrition directly from the soil.  These include Pine Drops and Snow Plant, in the Heath family with Manzanita and Madrone, and two species of Coralroot which are in the Orchid family.  On a recent hike through a shady area in Boyle ravine, I looked down a steep slope and thought I spotted one the aforementioned.  But there was something different about it.  The bright white flowers contrasted sharply from the bright red stems, and they spread out a bit further from the stem than is typical of the more tightly arranged flowers of Pine Drops and the Coralroots.  It also surprised me to see such fresh-looking blooms since all the species I mentioned above have already gone to seed.  I scrambled down the slope to take a close-up photo, but I didn't try to identify my new find until I got home.  It turns out to be another member of the Heath family, Ericaceae.  My field guide calls it Leafless Wintergreen, Pyrola aphylla, but that's not the end of the story.  It turns out its identity is unclear in the world of botany.  Some consider it to be a variant of one of two species of Wintergreen that actually have leaves, while others consider it to be a separate species.  Well, I'm in no position to settle that debate, but I am excited to have found this interesting plant for the first time.  Click on the photo to better appreciate shape and position of the flowers as well as the richness of the red color of the stems.  If memory serves, they almost seemed to glow in the woods.  I'll probably go back to that spot soon for an even closer look.


  1. Most people walk through life and miss the details. We need your eyes.

  2. Very nice! I found that last summer when I was taking a trip over the Tioga Pass.

    And, for a comparison to what you are showing (but not great flowers, mostly leaves) I found the related Pyrola picta (White veined Wintergreen) a few weeks ago in Nevada County on one of my hikes.