Yes! It's a Lady's Slipper Orchid, Cypripedium montanum. The flower has been wonderfully preserved. I've never seen a Lady's Slipper in the wild before, and I've looked. This species ranges from Alaska and Saskatchewan south to Wyoming and California, as far as Santa Cruz, and south of Yosemite. This seed pod is almost mature.
Here's a picture of the flower, from Wikipedia, taken by Bill Bouton:
It turns out they are everywhere around our campsite.
They probably bloomed in late June or July, and it would have been one of the most common wildflowers. The champion of this population has 9 stems, and with two flowers per it would have had 18 flowers open all at once. I wonder if I'll be busy next July.
After germination the tiny seedling forms an association with a specific fungus, then spends two or three years as a hybrid orchid-fungus-root thing, then it puts up its first leaves and stems, and about 12 years later it begins flowering. The rhizome extends each year, each flowering leaves a short scar. Researchers discovered one root that was 2' long, with 95 scars.
Whoa, eclipse time. We rush to the meadow and I find my tripod:
and I shoot a few frames through my #14 welding filter, which reflects light back and forth from the filter for an interesting multiple-artifact effect:
Then it gets dimmer and dimmer very quickly, I hear a Cooper's Hawk distinctive roosting call, and suddenly the light just goes out.
It looks like a black hole. I am completely swept away. This is a far more exciting and powerful experience than any other natural phenomena I've experienced. The fine details in the extended, wispy coronal halo are exquisite.
I know how big the moon is, and how far away the sun is. The vast scales and energies involved in swinging this mass around the earth, and keeping it from flying away, become suddenly comprehensible. I remember my camera and quickly brace it on the post and snap these shots. Just my Canon T6 camera and a kit zoom-telephoto lens. Nothing high-end here!
I can easily see orange-red arcing flares along the right edge, in our binoculars they look big and sharp, just like the pictures. I didn't expect to see them at all..
The halo brightens as the moon moves a little:
Then it is over, everything is bright. Two minutes seemed like just ten seconds. It was over just like that. Incredibly the Cooper's Hawk actually calls again. Morning time!
Walking back I find this interesting plate on the ground near a clump of Doug Fir,
And this as-yet unidentified plant, with brilliant orange, three-chambered seeds,
and this very nice, unknown ground cover, with small, paired, very hard, shiny, quilted leaves, rooting in to form large mats:
and incredibly someone was giving away a perfectly good couch. A free couch in the forest in the Blue Mountains?
They're going to love it in the Production Office!
Then it was time to drive.
Our story continues soon, keep checking back.
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