The genus Corallorhiza is little studied, but it is estimated that it has about 10 species of which one species found in Europe. Same species is also found in northern Asia and North America. Corallorhiza trifida exist besides in Norway, Sweden and Finland also down to South and Central Europe mountain areas where it can grow high in the mountains. It is rare in Denmark.
Coralroot Orchid – Corallorhiza trifida
In Norway Corallroot Orchid – Corallorhiza trifida in the country, preferably in forests on something shady and moist areas, but it can also occur above the treeline. It is not easy to detect when it is in poor contrast to everything else green surrounding it, and is usually not detected. It is not considered to be lime-consuming, but is more frequent on calcareous soils.
In ground under Corallroot Orchid we find mallet-shaped, branched roots forming a coral-like system. The roots are completely surrounded and partially pierced by fungal hyphae. It often creates multiple flower stems simultaneously from the same rootstock. It has probably its closest relatives One-leaved Bog Orchid and is also closely related to the genera Listera. The species lacks chlorophyll and is thus not self-sufficient in nutrient uptake. It has instead opted for the expanded relationship with mycorrhizal fungi and lives by pulling all its nutrients out of these. Along with the other two Norwegian orchids without chlorophyll, Ghost Orchid and Bird’s-nest Orchid, the plant is totally dependent on the symbiosis with fungi, not only during germination, but throughout life.
The leaves are poorly developed and consist completely back-formed and consists only of pale leaf sheaths. Stems are yellow or yellow-brown and are about 20 cm high. In the top carries the few white yellow or green-yellow flowers with white red-spotted lip. It is very early flowering and bloom in May in lowland areas south of the country. In upland areas and further north will not flourish until July. The elegant pollination mechanisms of orchids are degenerate in Corallorhiza trifida, and we assume that it is self-pollinating. The flowers develop hanging banana-shaped fruits which fracture of the upper part is likely to prevent the seeds should be spread out easily. Next spring you can easy to spot on last year’s inflorescence with its downward hanging seed capsules, and the plant seems powerful to be such weak orchid.