The Charlie Horwood Memorial Pink Lady Slipper Orchid Walk, June 24, 2017

Allan Stein, Nature Newfoundland and Labrador
Mount Scio seems to have an ideal micro-climate for Pink Lady Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule).

For 12 or 15 years, until his death in 1992, Charlie Horwood led a few trusted friends to view his favourite pink lady slipper orchid patch. (Cypripedium acaule).   It was the highlight of the spring for the lucky few.  Charlie seemed to have direct communication with the orchids and knew some of his favourite plants intimately.  He knew exactly where to find each of the three albino plants and the massive plants that had thirty or more flower stems.  Charlie was among the naturalists who resurrected the Newfoundland Natural History Society (for the third time!) in 1970 and served on the executive, including as President for years.

Event attendees enjoying their morning.

[pullquote]Charlie seemed to have direct communication with the orchids and knew some of his favourite plants intimately.[/pullquote]

Why the upper slopes of Mount Scio became carpeted by thousands of the orchids is uncertain but clearly it was an ideal micro-climate for them.  A massive forest fire (in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s?) had stripped the area not only the forest but also much of the peat soil.

This spring was late and cool, with many damp, misty days but little rain so we anticipated, wisely, that the peak of flowering would be later than the “usual” mid June.  The group of attendees on the walk saw more than 200 flowers and almost all were in prime condition.  As we left the concentration of blooms, the showers started.  A check on the area on June 16 showed that despite the needed rain, the two additional days of hot, sunny weather left the majority of the orchids in sad shape. Approximately fifty participants joined the hike, many of whom were excited to see rare, exotic orchid flowers in our harsh environment.  Most of them heard my 6:00 AM interview on the CBC Morning Show on Friday morning.  Who says “Radio is Dead”?  Certainly not the newly enthused orchid lovers!”

Over 200 orchid blooms were seen on the walk.

Interestingly, the spring of 2002 was unusually dry but warm.  That year the walk was held on June 2002 with approximately 700 orchids seen, many already past their prime.  Over the years, the orchid flowering area shrinks and density decreases as re-growth forest deprives the orchids of needed sunshine.  Foot path development also encroaches on the area.  The orchids are not uncommon or endangered and protecting the top and slopes of Mount Scio would be of little help as reforestation would continue in any event.

Corn lily. These plants tend to reach their peak flowering two to four days later than orchids.

Enjoy the lovely flowers where they grow. Tread carefully and do not pick the flowers  or attempt to transplant them; they rarely survive if moved or disturbed.