ghost orchid

Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Spiranthoideae - Spiranthoids
                    Tribe:   Cranichideae - Cranichids
                      Subtribe:   Spiranthinae - Spiranthines


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris)
Description:
Summary: Plant a deciduous terrestrial with a few grass-like leaves. Flowers in autumn with a flowering stem under 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall. Flowers typically have widely spread lateral sepals with a rather elongate lip with a lacy margin.

Common Name: Long-lipped Ladies Tresses

Habitat: Terrestrial in open, semi-wet prairies, grasslands, and pinelands.

Flowering season: October through December (peaking in November)

Images:
 
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Plant in Situ
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Plant in Situ
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Entire Spike
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Entire Spike
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Closer Shot
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Closer Shot
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Flower Close-up
Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris) - Flower Close-up

Description:
 

This is a rather uncommon terrestrial and one of the last orchids to bloom in any given year in open, wet areas. Usually at this point, all the surrounding grasses have dried to a deep straw brown, leaving this orchid as one of the few green herbaceous plants remaining.

Plants will have one or a few grass-like leaves clinging to the base of the flowering stem, which usually bears the flowers in a rather lax spiral. The flowers themselves are one of the larger flowers in the genus Spiranthes in Florida, with sepals that usually spread widely with a long, lacy lip held lowermost. Sometimes Spiranthes odorata blooms in nearby areas, allowing occasional hybrids/intergrades to occur with this species.

This species is seldom seen in the wild, although much suitable habitat exists. It is likely that a combination of relative rarity and the late blooming season (which often coincides with hunting season) contributes to this. This particular population in these photographs was a chance discovery by a colleague in the Palm Beach area, adding a new county to its range. Sharp-eyed orchid hunters would do well to keep an eye out for it when out in the field in late autumn.

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