Some Wild Canadian Orchids Benefit from Woodland Hiking Trails - and the Implications


  • Paul M. Catling 170 Sanford Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K2C 0E9
  • Brenda Kostiuk 170 Sanford Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K2C 0E9



Calypso bulbosa var. americana, Epipactis helleborine, Goodyera oblongifolia, Goodyera repens, disturbance, trails, paths, conservation, management, rare plants, Ontario, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Canada


To clarify the impact that trails have on orchids we compared the occurrence of orchids on the lightly trampled edges of bare trails, with the occurrence of orchids in the surrounding woodland and noted the degree of disturbance. A two-way mixed analysis of variance, using six trails from across Canada, indicated that location by distance strata interaction was lacking. Orchid densities were consistently higher within a few meters of the bare portion of a trail than further away. The width of the disturbance gradient for two well-used trails in parks in Bruce County, Ontario, was determined with regression to be within 1 m from the edge of the bare portion of the trail. Calypso bulbosa var. americana on trails in in Alberta, Epipactis helleborine and Goodyera oblongifolia on trails in Ontario, Goodyera repens on trails in Northwest Territories and all native orchids (cumulatively) on trails on Flowerpot Island, Ontario demonstrated consistent and significant increased abundance within the trail disturbance gradients in comparison to their occurrence in the surrounding forest. More flowering plants of Goodyera oblongifolia and mature capsules of Epipactis helleborine occurred in the trail disturbance gradient than beyond suggesting a beneficial impact on fecundity. The disturbance gradient effect likely includes light trampling which reduces competition, compacts soil, and exposes mineral soil. The effect also includes increased light and microclimate differences near to the path. Landscape managers should recognize that in some situations orchids may benefit greatly from trails and that trails may be better considered as a benefit than as a problem.