ghost orchid

Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Lily/related subclass
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Spiranthoideae - Spiranthoids
                    Tribe:   Cranichideae - Cranichids
                      Subtribe:   Spiranthinae - Spiranthines

Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Summary: Plants consist of a basal rosette of leaves, giving rise to a raceme of small, white flowers up to 18 inches (46 cm) tall, typically arranged in a tight spiral forming three ranks up the stem. Flowers often strongly fragrant during the day.

Common Name: Fragrant Ladies' Tresses

Habitat: Wet ditches, swamps, forests, one of the few orchids that will grow readily in shallow standing water.

Flowering season: September through December (peaking in October)

Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Fragrant Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes odorata)


This is one of the few orchids native to the United States that can be considered a true aquatic, often growing in water several inches deep. As a result, these are sometimes used in the aquarium and terrarium trades. Equally at home in moist bottomlands out of the water, these plants form basal rosettes of leaves giving rise to a single raceme of white flowers with cream-to-yellow throats. The flowers are often quite fragrant, having a sweet smell reminiscent to me of vanilla mixed with a hint of baby powder.

In addition to reproducing by seed, these plants also reproduce asexually via underground runners. Hence a single seed introduction can become a fairly extensive colony over time

This orchid blooms in the fall to winter, at the same time, and often in the same habitat as Ponthieva racemosa and Spiranthes ovalis. It sometimes forms hybrids with the latter, this being described in the literature as Spiranthes itchetuckneensis

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