Conserved, hunted and sometimes poached like animals, orchids are sought after for their variety and pomp, said Ben Shreves, a botanical consultant. 

This time, Shreves was on the hunt for rare plants and weeds in the Shoshone National Forest, near the Wyoming-Montana border, on a conservation assignment for the U.S. Forest Service when he eyed the bright orange polyp of the Spotted coral root (Corallorhiza maculata). 

Fairy slipper (Calypso bulbosa), of the Orchidaceae family, found in Shoshone National Forest by the Lily Lake campground. (Ben Shreves).

The orchid’s uncannily aquatic appearance lacks green, a product of its parasitic rather than photosynthetic tendencies. 

For a South Dakota native, this was Shreve’s first time seeing the Corallorhiza maculata genus. But his local companions — whom he calls true Wyoming botanists — had seen them many times before. 

“[These orchids] are common enough if you can find the right habitat. But that’s the hard part I guess, as they kind of take you off the beaten path,” Shreves said.

Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica), of the Orobanchaceae family, found in Shoshone National Forest by the Lily Lake campground. (Ben Shreves).

For aspiring orchid hunters, the best places to look are the belts between forested areas and wetter regions, like alpine lakes, creeks or drainages, Shreves said. 

“It’s really not that difficult, honestly, if you’re not afraid to get a little dirty.” 

Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata), of the Orobanchaceae family, found in Shoshone National Forest by the Lily Lake campground. (Ben Shreves).

In the same trip he found a Fairy slipper (Calypso bulbosa), Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) and a Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata).  

What the team was really looking for though, and Shreves has yet to find, was the Amerorchis rotundifolia, or the Round-leaved orchid. 

“If you find that, that’s the crown jewel. In Wyoming … if you’ve found over 50 in your lifetime, you’re considered like a chosen one.” 

Follow Shreve’s adventures on Twitter @botanistben and on Instagram @ben_the_botanist. Okay

Lia Salvatierra is an intern at WyoFile. She is a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and global studies, regionally concentrated in Latin America. Lia is particularly interested in the...

Join the Conversation


Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nice article. Beautiful flowers. Thanks. Note, though, that the label on the photo of elephant’s head got mixed up. Elephant’s head is in the Scrophulariaceae, the figwort family.

  2. Great photographs. Love seeing the diversity of orchids blooming on Shoshone National Forest now. I saw the beautiful Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata) near Union Pass this week.