In dense mountain forests these strange plants shimmer like pallid ghosts among the dark trees. They are pure translucent white throughout, stem and all, and the leaves have shrunk to white sheaths, an inch or two long. The stems are one to two feet tall and bear spikes of numerous flowers, each over half an inch long, with the lip shorter than the sepals and petals, which are alike. They are beautiful and yet not quite pleasing, for we feel instinctively that there is something unnatural about them and, indeed, the strange absence of any green coloring matter in their make-up indicates that they are incapable of making their own food from the elements and draw their nourishment from decaying vegetation, or are parasitic on other plants. They range northward from Yosemite but are nowhere very abundant. I found several growing near the trail from Little Yosemite Valley to Cloud's Rest and a good many in the woods near the foot of Mt. Shasta, where they seem to be quite common.
Phantom Orchis- Cephalanthera Austinae. ORCHID FAMILY. Orchidaceae.
There are several kinds of Serapias, widely distributed; tall, stout herbs, with creeping rootstocks and leafy stems; the leaves plaited lengthwise and clasping at base; the flowers with leafy bracts, in terminal racemes. The flowers have no spur; the sepals and petals are separate and nearly equal; the lip broad, free, concave below, constricted near the middle.