The Genus Piperia



Piperia candida or Slender White Piperia


Piperia candida is also known as Slender White Piperia or White Flowered Piperia or Pearl Orchid. This terrestrial orchid can be found in coniferous and mixed evergreen forests. Flowers are often dense on one side of the stem. The white flowers number up to 100. The dorsal sepal has a green mid-vein. The white triangular shaped lip points downward. The spur is 2-3 mm long. The flowers have a honey like fragrance. The 2 to 3 basal round to ovate leaves are 4-6 inches long. Leaves are usually absent at flowering. The distribution is from southern Alaska thru to California.

  • Height: 8 to 24 inches
  • Flower size: 4 to 6 mm wide
  • Blooms: May to August
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Harstine Island, WA 2008




Piperia elegans subsp. elegans or Elegant Piperia


Piperia elegans subsp. elegans or Coast Piperia or Elegant Piperia can be found growing in coniferous forests, on coastal bluffs, scrub and headlands. Synonyms are Piperia maritima or Platanthera elegans. The white flowers are dense and number up to 100. The sepals have green veining. The spur is 6-14 mm long. The 2 to 3 leaves are 12 long and may be absent during flowering. The distribution is from British Columbia thru California, northern Idaho and western Montana.

  • Height: 3 to 36 inches
  • Flower size: 5 mm wide
  • Blooms: July to September
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Little Rock, WA 2007




Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Rainier, WA 2007




Piperia elongata or Wood Rein-Orchid


Piperia elongata is also known as Long-spurred Piperia, Long Spiked Piperia, Wood Rein-Orchid or Chaparral Orchid. This terrestrial orchid can be found in dry and moist oak or coniferous forests in the north and chaparrals in the south. This orchid can live in sun or shade. Piperia elongata can occur with Piperia transversa. Flowers can either be densely or loosely spaced and number over 100. The green flowers have a triangle lip. The spur is 6-15 mm long. The 2 to 4 basal leaves are oblong-elliptic shaped. Leaves are usually absent at flowering. The distribution is California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia.

  • Height: 39 inches
  • Flower size: 5 mm wide
  • Blooms: June to September
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Port Townsend, WA 2007




Piperia transversa or Flat-Spurred Piperia


Piperia transversa is also known as Flat-Spurred Piperia. This terrestrial orchid can be found in partial shade to full sun in dry oak or mixed coniferous woods and sandy areas near coastal forests. Piperia transversa can occur with Piperia elongata. The white to yellow flowers are densely spaced and number over 100. The sepals and petals have green mid-veining. The flattened spur is 6-10 mm and twice as long as the lip. A sweet floral fragrance can be detected at night. The pair of basal leaves are absent at time of flowering. The distribution is British Columbia to California.

  • Height: 14 inches
  • Flower size: 3 to 5 mm wide
  • Blooms: May to Late August
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Orcas Island, WA




Piperia unalascensis or Alaskan Piperia


Piperia unalascensis is also known as Alaskan Piperia or Slender-Spire Orchid. The species name comes from Unalaska, an island in the Aleutians. This terrestrial orchid can be found growing in forests, meadows, rocky hillsides and tundra. This orchid can grow in light shade to full sun. The pollinator is a plum or pyralid moth. The yellowish-green flowers number over 100. The sepals have green veining. The 2 to 6 smooth basal leaves are dying back during flowering. The sepals are bent backwards. The spur is 1-5mm long and is about the same length as the lip. The fragrance is a sweet musky smell. The distribution is Michigan, Quebec, southern Ontario, southern Alaska south to California, west to Montana.

Piperia unalascensis has one variation:
  • Piperia unalascensis forma olympica: Dwarf form found in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State.
  • Height: 10 to 28 inches
  • Flower size: 10 to 12 mm wide
  • Blooms: April to August
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Port Angeles, WA 2006


Piperia unalascensis forma olympica
Photos courtesy of: Melissa Rathbun, Port Angeles, WA 2006




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