ghost orchid

Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox)

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 Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox)
Summary: Medium-sized terrestrials with a clump of grass-like leaves at their bases. Flowering stem up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) consists of a spike of white, spiraled flowers, typically with green veins.

Common Name: Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses

Habitat: open, moist meadows; acid bogs; moist, open pinelands

Flowering season: March through June (peaking in May)

Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox) - inflorescence
Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox) - inflorescence
Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox) - flower close-up
Grass-leaved Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes praecox) - flower close-up


This species grows in slightly moister situations than S. vernalis. The flowering stems are typically taller and the flowers a bit larger, the flowers spiral around the stem with variable degrees of twisting from a loose spiral that does not even complete one turn to a spiral so tight that the flowers appear to be in 2 to 3 ranks straight up the stem. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of this species (although not present in this particular photograph) is a set of green veins on the lip.

The column of this species (and other species of spiranthes as well) has an interesting mechanism to discourage self-pollination: when the flower first opens, the column remains tight against the lip, preventing access to the stigmatic surface. When the pollinia are removed, the column then lifts off the lip, allowing access to the stigma. Bees, when visiting these flowers, tend to start at the bottom flower and then work their way up the stem. This causes them to carry pollinia from the newly opened flowers at the tip of the stem to the lower flowers of the next stem.

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