Wildflowers of the United States

Home Journal Family Index - All States Photo Albums News About Privacy

Showy Orchis, Showy Orchid, Purple-hooded Orchid, Gay Orchid, Purple Orchis, Two-leaved orchis - Galearis spectabilis


Family: Orchidaceae - Orchid family Genus Common Name: Showy orchis, Galearis Native Status: NativeMonocot Perennial Herb
Galearis spectabilis - Showy Orchis, Showy Orchid, Purple-hooded Orchid, Gay Orchid, Purple Orchis, Two-leaved orchis. Galearis is a small genus found in eastern North America and east Asia. At its narrowest circumscription it has 2 species, 1 in Asia and the species presented here, Galearis spectabilis (formerly known as Orchis spectabilis.) At its broadest circumscription it contains 10 species, some moved known in North America and moved into the genus from such genera as Amerorchis and Neolindleya, as well as several newly described and/or reclassified species in east Asia.

Galearis spectabilis is found in moist woods of all states east of the Mississippi River except Florida, as well as Minnesota and 6 other states west of the Mississippi. It is also found in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick in Canada. This plant was formerly classified as Orchis spectabilis.

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

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

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 17 Oct 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Search Our Database: Enter any portion of the Scientific, Common Name, or both.
Scientific name:
Common name:

Example: Enter "lob" in the common name field and you'll get all our species that have "lobelia" in the common name, as well as "sharp-lobed hepatica".

Do a general Google search of the entire site:



Follow on Twitter
Follow USWildflowers on Twitter










Site: Porters Creek Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2016-April-18Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The genus name Galearis come from the Latin word for helmet - galea - referring to the helmet-like hood. The hood - usually pink - is formed by the 3 sepals curving over and hiding the two similarly-colored lateral petals. These hang above the lip - the modified middle petal - which is usually white. There are recognized forms of Galearis spectabilis which are entirely pink (forma willeyi) and entirely white (forma gordinierii.)
Galearis spectabilis

Site: Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The sepals of Showy Orchis, as with most orchids, are very petal-like. Here the two lateral sepals are spreading as the plant ages, giving the flower a more winged rather than helmeted appearance.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Galearis spectabilis

Site: Porters Creek Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2016-April-18Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Showy Orchis grows up to about 10 inches tall, bearing the flowers on a conspicuously angled stalk rising between 2 (occasionally only 1) large, green basal leaves. The inflorescence will have 2 to 15 beautiful flowers among the leafy bracts.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Galearis spectabilis

Site: Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-05Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Galearis spectabilis is less deceitful than many orchids - about one-third of orchids do not produce pollen but instead "trick" pollinators into the flowers with bright colors and sweet aroma. Showy Orchis, however, does reward pollinators with food - nectar contained in the spur at the base of the lip.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Galearis spectabilis

Site: Little River Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-May-04Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Galearis spectabilis grows in moist thickets and old fields as well as moist, calcareous woodlands where it sometimes shares habitat with Sedum ternatum - Woodland Stonecrop. The "conspicuously angled stem" (descriptive term from Flora of North America) can be noted in the rightmost Showy Orchis plant in this photo.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Galearis spectabilis

Site: Middle Prong Trail, GSMNP, Sevier County, TN Date: 2015-July-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The fruit of Showy Orchis is a capsule which is somewhat triangular in cross-section. They are held erect above the remaining floral bracts.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Galearis spectabilis

References used for identification and information:

Commercial / Cookie Notice

Looking for Wildflowers for a specific state? Check here:



All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer