Slender-spire Orchid
Piperia unalascensis (Spreng.) Rydb.
Family: Orchidaceae, Orchid
Genus: Piperia
Synonyms: Habenaria unalascensis
Other names: Alaska rein-orchid
Nomenclature: unalascensis = from Aleutian Is. (Unalaska)
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
No medicinal data
Description

General: perennial, hairless, leafless but with a few small bracts, 20-60 cm tall, from 1-3 round to ovoid, fleshy tubers mostly 1.5-3 cm long and up to 1 cm broad.

Leaves: mainly basal, 2-4 on the lower third of the stem, often closely clustered, usually starting to wither by early flowering, lanceolate to oblanceolate, 8-15 cm long and 10-30 mm broad, pointed to blunt-tipped, gradually narrowed to the sheathing base.

Flowers: numerous in a tall, narrow spike, moderately fragrant, almost stalkless, spirally arranged, the floral bracts up to 8 mm long. Sepals 1-nerved, pale green, thin, the upper one ovate or ovate-elliptic, about 3 mm long, the lower pair slightly longer, spreading to slightly bent back. Petals fleshy and thicker than the sepals, greenish to nearly white and sometimes purplish-tinged, the lip fleshy, lanceolate to triangular-ovate, 2.5-4.5 mm long, narrower near the base, fused with the side sepals and with the base of the column, thickened along the edges. Spur cylindric straight to somewhat curved, 3-5 mm long. Reproductive column very short, the anther about 1 mm long, the pollen sacs nearly joined. Late June-August.

Fruits: capsules, erect, scarcely 1 cm long.


Distribution

Usually in dry woods, to gravelly streambanks and open mountain sides, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from AK to Quebec and Ontario, and s. to CA, NV, UT, CO, SD.
Edible Uses

The Pomo and Kashaya Indians baked the bulbs of hillside bog orchid and they were eaten like baked potatoes.


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