Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Western Rattlesnake Plantain, GOODYERA OBLONGIFOLIA

from the the August 23, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

Few wildflowers are flowering nowadays. One that is is shown above.

That's an orchid, and orchids often are difficult to identify because of their large number of species, typically small flowers, and unusual flower anatomy. However, when you see a spike of orchid flowers arising from a basal rosette of several dark-green, evergreen leaves heavily spotted with white, the first genus to pop into your mind ought to be Goodyera -- the genus of the rattlesnake plantains.

In the photo you can see another good field mark for flowers in the orchid genus Goodyera: Each blossom's side or lateral sepals spread out like ears or wings.

Rattlesnake plantain flowers are said to be "protogynous," which means that the female stigma becomes receptive before pollen is released, making self-pollination very unlikely.

Back east there are three similar rattlesnake plantain species -- members of the genus Goodyera -- but in Oregon there's just the species shown in the picture, the Western Rattlesnake Plantain, GOODYERA OBLONGIFOLIA. This species is distributed throughout western North America and large portions of eastern Canada and some adjacent northeastern states.