Many people know orchids as those finicky flowers that are almost impossible to keep alive for more than a few days, but orchids are beautiful and unique in the world of botany for their distinct shapes and bright colors. While in your home it may seem that orchids are too delicate to survive — they have exceedingly specific temperature, humidity, and food requirements — orchids thrive in wild environments around the world, including the Niagara region.
If you are an orchid admirer, a trip to Niagara Falls is well worth it. The Niagara Escarpment is home to no fewer than 37 different species of orchid, all of which can be spotted on a series of hikes within Niagara Falls’ surrounding areas. Check out a few of the more recognizable wild orchid varieties, and get excited for your trip to Niagara Falls.
This orchid’s name is a perfect descriptor of this jaw-dropping bloom. These orchids are a striking bright yellow, and the lower part of the bloom contains a distinct bulb that looks just like a tiny shoe. The surrounding petals of the orchid may be yellow as well, but some have dark leaves and petals that make the lady’s-slipper even more striking.
Also called the fairy slipper or Venus’s slipper, the calypso orchid is usually pretty easy to spot. Most often appearing in bright pink or purple, the bloom also has accents of dark, white, and yellow along its spiky petals. To find this beauty, search sheltered areas along the forest floor.
Alaska Rein Orchid
This orchid is one of the more difficult to see in the wild because its buds are much smaller than more familiar-looking orchids. Growing about two feet tall, the Alaska rein (otherwise known as slenderspire or Alaskan piperia) has widely spaced blooms of greenish-white flowers toward the upper part of the stem. In the evenings, these blooms emit a distinct musky, honey-like smell.
Vibrant orange and flecked with fuchsias, yellows, and other orange hues, the spotted jewelweed orchid is anything but an unwanted intruder. With three lobes curled into a distinct shape, this orchid is one of the most striking to find in the wild. When held underwater, the plant appears to turn a silver color, allowing for its “jewel” name. Look to the streams and ditches to find this bottomland soil–dwelling bloom. If you’re lucky, you might find it alongside its less-common relative, the yellow jewelweed, as the two like to grow near one another.
If you are having trouble spotting the wild orchids on your own, or if a hiking-filled vacation sounds unappealing with the luxury of urban Niagara Falls so close, you don’t need to fret. Every year, the Bruce Peninsula National Park hosts an Orchid Festival to celebrate the beautiful diversity of plant life in the Niagara Escarpment. Keep abreast of their plans by visiting their website, and make sure to book tickets to the best orchid experience in North America.