Aplectrum hyemale (Putty-root)
|Also known as:||Adam and Eve|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; moist deciduous forests|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||12 to 16 inches|
|USDA PLANTS database:||Minnesota county distribution map|
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Pale, ghostly raceme of 6 to 16 1-inch purple tinged yellowish green flowers atop an erect, smooth and leafless stalk. Top and lower two side sepals flare open outward presenting a triangular front profile, petals and lower lip forming semi-opened tubed flower in center, the lip wrinkled at apical opening. Floral spur absent, and bracts are reduced to nearly absent.
Leaves and stem:
A single basal leaf 3 to 6 inches long and ¾ to 2½ inches wide, elliptical with a pointed tip, smooth surfaces and edges but wrinkled in appearance from pleating along the alternating dark green and white parallel veins. Leaves often in large colonies with few producing flowering stalks any given year. There is a single erect floral stem to 16 inches tall, with 2-3 bladeless sheaths on the lower portion of the stem.
Notes:While it can still be locally frequent, this like many small orchids and other natives (the entire Big Woods ecosystem) it is steadily loosing ground to development and encroaching invasive species, including earthworms. An unusual plant adapted to life in shady deciduous forests, to take advantage of the limited light available, the leaf is only present from the fall through the winter and into early spring when the trees overhead are leafless. Then as flowering time (anthesis) approaches the leaves begin to wither away just as the pale flower stalks begin to emerge.
Where to buy native seed and plants
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- Putty-root plants
- more flowers
- leaf withering away as flowering stem emerges
- leaf litter nearly absent due to earthworms
- Putty-root under attack by garlic mustard
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken on SNA lands in Wright County
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?