(Corallorhiza multiflora) Orchid family

Flowers - Dull brownish purple, about 1/2 in. high; 10 to 30

borne in a raceme 2 to 8 in. long. Petals about the length of

sepals, and somewhat united at the base; spur yellowish, the oval

lip white, spotted and lined with purplish; 3-lobed, wavy edged.

Scape, 8 to 20 in. tall, colored, furnished with several flat

scales. Leaves: None. Root: A branching, coral-like mass.

Preferred Habitat - Dry woods.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Nova Scotia, westward to British Columbia; south

to Florida, Missouri, and California.

To the majority of people the very word orchid suggests a

millionaire's hothouse, or some fashionable florist's show

window, where tropical air plants send forth gorgeous blossoms,

exquisite in color, marvelous in form; so that when this

insignificant little stalk pokes its way through the soil at

midsummer and produces some dull flowers of indefinite shades and

no leaves at all to help make them attractive, one feels that the

coral-root is a very poor relation of theirs indeed. The prettily

marked lower lip, at once a platform and nectar guide to the

insect alighting on it, is all that suggests ambition worthy of

an orchid.

If poverty of men and nations can be traced to certain radical

causes by the social economist, just as surely can the botanist

account for loss of leaves - riches - by closely examining the

poverty-stricken plant. Every phenomenon has its explanation. A

glance at the extraordinary formation under ground reveals the

fact that the coral-roots, although related to the most

aristocratic and highly organized plants in existence, have

stooped to become ghoulish saprophytes. An honest herb abounds in

good green coloring matter (chlorophyll), that serves as a light

screen to the cellular juices of leaf and stem. It also forms

part of its digestive apparatus, aiding a plant in the

manufacture of its own food out of the soil, water, and gases;

whereas a plant that lives by piracy - a parasite - or a

saprophyte, that sucks up the already assimilated products of

another's decay, loses its useless chlorophyll as surely as if it

had been kept in a cellar. In time its equally useless leaves

dwindle to bracts, or disappear. Nature wastes no energy. Fungi,

for example, are both parasites and saprophytes; and so when

plants far higher up in the evolutionary scale than they lose

leaves and green color too, we may know they are degenerates

belonging to that disreputable gang of branded sinners which

includes the Indian-pipe, broom-rape, dodder, pine-sap, and

beech-drops. Others, like the gerardias and foxgloves, may even

now be detected on the brink of a fall from grace.

The EARLY CORAL-ROOT (C. Corallorhiza; C. innata of Gray)

- a similar but smaller species, whose loose spike of dull

purplish flowers likewise terminates a scaly purplish or

yellowish scape arising from a mass of short, thick, whitish,

fleshy, blunt fibers, may be found in the moist woods blooming in

May or June. It has a more northerly range, however, extending

from the mountains of Georgia, it is true, but chiefly from the

northern boundary of the United States, from New England westward

to the State of Washington, and northward to Nova Scotia and


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