Spiranthes cernua

Spiranthes cernua nodding ladies'-tresses

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

This is one of our native orchids, a member of the orchid family. There are several species of ladies’-tresses in the eastern United States and they are sometimes difficult to distinguish. All of the species are very slender plants often with a spiral stem. The form of the flower spike gives the plant its common name. This species has a double-spiraled stem. The flower spike is inconspicuous and is about 6-18 inches long. The blossoms are small and white or cream-colored but have small red hairs. Each blossom is about ½ inch long and very fragrant. When mature they tend to bend or nod downwards. The petals and upper sepals are joined to form a hood over the wavy-edged lip petal. The lateral sepals are lance-shaped. The flower lip is ovate to oblong with a rough tip.

The stem is downy with fine, simple hairs. The short basal grass-like leaves wither before the flowers bloom. When present the leaves wrap around the base of the plant and can be up to a foot long. It is usually found growing in moist fields or woods. The blooming period is late summer and autumn, depending on location. In this area it blooms in August or September. It is found throughout most of the eastern and central United States where conditions are appropriate.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Common in moist, acidic soils of meadows, open woods and roadsides.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers late July through October.

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