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Ladies' Tresses, Northern Slender Lady's Tresses, Southern Slender Ladies' Tresses - Spiranthes lacera


Family: Orchidaceae - Orchid family Genus Common Name: Ladies Tresses Native Status: Native
Spiranthes lacera - Ladies' Tresses, Northern Slender Lady's Tresses, Southern Slender Ladies' Tresses. Spiranthes is a genus of orchids with about 45 species, nearly 25 of which are found in North America. It is a terrestrial herb characterized by primarily basal leaves which are frequently withered by flowering, and a terminal spike of small, light colored flowers (white, cream, yellow, or pink) which are usually arranged in a spiral around the stem.

Spiranthes lacera is one of the half-dozen or so Spiranthes species with fairly broad distribution, being found in the entire eastern half of the United States west to Texas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, and in Canada as far west as Alberta. There are two varieties, S. lacera var. lacera and S. lacera var. gracilis. Var. gracilis is the more widely distributed variety, found in all but the most northern and western parts of the species' range. Var. lacera is not found south of the Virginia west to Missouri latitude.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA,VT, WI, WV

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Spiranthes lacera

Distribution of Spiranthes lacera in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 Mar 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Carroll County, VA Date: 2014-September-02Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
As with many Spiranthes species, Slender Ladiesí Tressesí inflorescence is usually a spiral of small flowers on the end of the scape, although the flowers may instead be carried in a more or less straight vertical column. This may be var. gracilis, which has a denser inflorescence than var. lacera (see below.)
Spiranthes lacera

Site: Blue Ridge Parkway, Carroll County, VA Date: 2014-September-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Spiranthes lacera has a green lower lip. Other green-lipped Spiranthes are S. eatonii, found in Florida and the coastal plains of a few other southern states, and S. torta, found in southern Florida.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiranthes lacera

Site: Blue Ridge Parkway, Carroll County, VA Date: 2014-September-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Spiranthes lacera grows to a height of about 18 inches, although it is frequently much shorter. It can be quite easy to overlook in the pinelands, open meadows, and roadsides where it grows. This may be var. lacera based on the less densely packed inflorescence than in the specimen shown above.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Spiranthes lacera

References used for identification and information:
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  • USDA Plants Database
  • Weakley's Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States (2012)
  • Minnesota Wildflowers
  • Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians: 2nd Edition
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    All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
    Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer