JUNE 24, 2015
I got quite lost trying to find the BROKENHEAD BOG BOARDWALK. I had rough directions with road names that didn’t match any road signs. I ended up in a gravel pit/dump at one point, but eventually found this gem of a spot just south of Lake Winnipeg near Selkirk, Manitoba. An elderly man pulled up next to me when he spotted my parked car. He was a local and though he could only walk with a cane, regularly visited. He looked at my rubber boots and said, “You won’t need those!”

Sparky Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0180The wood Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk is over a mile long at 1.8km and traverses several habitats.
The Brokenhead Wetland complex covers 1240 hectares and consists of dry black spruce stands and Sphagnum patches, wet swamp, forested fingers, spring-fed forest stands composed of eastern white cedar, black spruce, and tamarack, saturated spring-fed channels, as well as fens, strings, and flarks. The ecological and floristic diversity of the complex may make it unique in Manitoba.

The most significant wetland in this complex is the calcareous fen, a wetland type considered rare in North America. A calcareous fen is a wetland characterized by a fluctuating water table. Groundwater and surface water movement can be observed in the channels and pools in the Brokenhead Wetland. The water is rich in calcium carbonate. Fens are more mineral rich and less acidic than bogs.

The reserve contains 23 species of provincially rare and uncommon plants. Amazingly, 28 of Manitoba’s 36 native orchid species, including the rare ram’s head lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum), are found in the wetland along with 8 of Manitoba’s 10 species of carnivorous (insect-eating) plants. A rare white cedar community also forms part of the wetland area.

People have been attracted to this wetland for many years. The Brokenhead Ojibway Nation has been using it for approximately 300 years and they continue to regard it as a place of great cultural importance and for collecting medicinal plants, tea berries and cedar. The traditional use of the wetland by the Brokenhead Ojibway is a way in which tradition permits a community to become intergenerational. Conserving the Brokenhead Wetland is an important step towards conserving Brokenhead Ojibway culture.

In 2005, Premier Gary Doer declared a 563-hectare portion of the Brokenhead Wetland the Brokenhead Wetlands Ecological Reserve. Since then the protected portion has doubled in size and includes a calcareous fen, a wetland type considered rare worldwide. This fen is the keystone of the ecosystem. If compromised, the rare plants in it will surely die off.

Amerorchis rotundifolia Small Round-leaved Orchis Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0388Small Round-leaved Orchis (Amerorchis rotundifolia)
The tiny but stunning Small Round-leaved Orchis is a showstopper! That is if you take the time to get low and appreciate its tiny magenta-spotted petals.

Amerorchis rotundifolia Small Round-leaved Orchis Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0412Small Round-leaved Orchis (Amerorchis rotundifolia)
Up until this day, I’d only seen this orchid once in the wild, and that was in Minnesota’s Itasca County on a tip from a fellow bird surveyor.

Amerorchis rotundifolia Small Round-leaved Orchis Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0413Small Round-leaved Orchis (Amerorchis rotundifolia)
Amerorchis is widespread but rarely encountered in its remote boggy haunts. It is found from Alaska east to Greenland and south to northern Maine and the North Woods of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (though seemingly absent from most of the NE corner of the state.

Corallorhiza maculata Spotted Coralroot orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0417Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)
Why no green? Spotted Coralroot is one of our saprophytic plants that lacks green chlorophyll and so cannot manufacture food from the sun. Instead it relies on soil fungi to hand-deliver nutrients to the plant. Some years coralroots can be common but go back to the same spot next year and there may be none.

Corallorhiza maculata Spotted Coralroot orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0420Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)
The name “coralroot” comes from the fact that they lack real roots and only have rhizomes below the dirt (underground stems). The rhizomes thick branching nature must have reminded an early botanist of coral.

Moneses uniflora One-flowered Wintergreen Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0431One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora).
Also called “Single Delight,” this tiny denizen of boreal forests is a real treat to find. Only an inch or two tall, it is easy to walk right by this delicate wildflower in the pyrola family. I really like the Norwegian name for it—St. Olaf’s Candlestick.

Platanthera obtusata Blunt-leaf Orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0446Blunt-leaf Orchid (Platanthera obtusata)

Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0475 The wooden boardwalk is built atop large plastic floatation pods. Photography is relatively easy as many plants are just off the edge of the walk way.

Arethusa bulbosa Dragon's Mouth Orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0484Dragon’s-Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa)
My first Arethusa orchids were found in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog…and I had to bushwhack about a mile to find them! These stunners were right off the edge of the boardwalk!

Arethusa bulbosa Dragon's Mouth Orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0500Dragon’s-Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa)
Looking right into the “Mouth of the Dragon”

Platanthera orbiculata Large Round-leaved Orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0519Large Round-leaved Orchid (Platanthera orbiculata)
Unfortunately I was a bit early for the dramatic white blooms of the Large Round-leaved Orchid.

Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0177iPhone panorama of the fen and boardwalk.

Triglochin maritimum Greater Arrow-grass Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0525Greater Arrow-grass (Triglochin maritimum)
Though not an orchid, Arrow-grass is nonetheless a very unique flower. It grows in saltwater and freshwater marshes and bogs and is circumboreal in range.

Triglochin maritimum Greater Arrow-grass Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0531Greater Arrow-grass (Triglochin maritimum)

Betula pumila Bog Birch Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0554Bog Birch (Betula pumila)
I love the penny-sized leaves of this midget birch. It only grows in wet boggy areas.

Cypripedium parviflorum Large Yellow Ladyslipper Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0561Large Yellow Ladyslipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)
I also saw the Small Yellow Ladyslipper who’s blossom is barely the size of a nickel!

Cypripedium reginae Showy Ladyslipper Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0592Showy Ladyslipper (Cypripedium reginae)
To be honest, I didn’t put much effort into photographing the Showy Ladyslipper as I knew I was going to make a visit to a patch with over 1100 blooming Showys in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog in a week or so.

Coeloglossum viride var. virescens Long-bracted Orchid Brokenhead Bog Boardwalk Selkirk Manitoba IMG_0594Long-bracted Orchid (Coeloglossum viride var. virescens)
I ended up tallying ELEVEN species/subspecies of orchids in a couple-hour jaunt:
Amerorchis rotundifolia (Small Round-leaved Orchis)
Arethusa bulbosa (Dragon’s Mouth)
Coeloglossum viride (Long-bracted Orchid)
Corallorhiza maculata
Corallorhiza trifida (Early Coralroot)
Cypripedium acaule (Pink Ladyslipper/Moccasin Flower)
Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin (Small Yellow Ladyslipper)
Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (Large Yellow Ladyslipper)
Cypripedium reginae (Showy Ladyslipper)
Platanthera obtusata (Blunt-leaf Orchid)
Platanthera orbiculata (Large Round-leaved Orchid) [not in bloom yet]

[Photos taken with Canon 7D with Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; Close ups used a Canon 500D lens screw-mounted to the front of the 70-200 lens; Pop-up flash used on many photos]

BROKEN HEAD BOG BOARDWALK is technically not open to the public yet…But the grand opening is planned for Fall 2015. It is located about an hour northeast of Winnipeg near Selkirk, Manitoba. Entrance to the Brokenhead Wetland is about two kilometres north of Stead Road, on the west side of Highway 59. There’s a little gravel area to park on the west side, with boulders across the start of the trail. You walk a gravel trail before reaching the boardwalk.

http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/pai/mb_network/brokenhead/

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