Corallorhiza trifida (Early Coralroot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Spring Coralroot, Yellow Coralroot, Northern Coralroot
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; swamps, bogs, thickets, upland forests
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:5 to 14 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Erect raceme of 4 to 19 flowers each about 3/8 inch across, with a short ovary and flower stalk. 3 petals and 2 lateral sepals are similarly colored - pale green/yellows, sometimes purple brown at outer tips, elongated, narrowing to a more rounded point. The sepals are slightly longer and narrower than the petals; petals are held close above nearly overlapping over flower column.

[photo of spotted lower lip] The lower lip is all white or sometimes sparingly speckled into throat, broader and wavy, curling underand back in at tip. 

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of stems] Leaves are reduced to overlapping sheathes from the base. Smooth throughout, stem color is variations of green/yellow, with similar colored leaves. Stems are unbranched, single to multiple clusters.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a dangling capsule about ½ inch long.


The coral-roots provide the longest and most contiguous discovery season for wildflower seekers with spring coral-root as early as autumn coral-root is late. While still small, the lightly colored C. trifida stands out starkly against the rich muted earth tones of decaying vegetation from the previous season and larger clumps can be spotted at great distance. Expect it to appear anywhere throughout its fairly extensive range.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at numerous locations on state lands in Aitkin, Anoka, Beltrami and Cass Counties


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Susan - Longville, Minnesota (north central MN)
on: 2011-06-08 20:45:36

Cluster of three plants growing in a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest edge near Little Boy Lake. Stems 3-4" long. Blooming June 5, 2011.

Posted by: Nancy C - Eastern Becker County, MN
on: 2017-07-12 14:41:33

I would like to send a photo for verification. The specimen I found had pale yellow flowers and stems.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-12 16:33:01

Nancy, what is it about your specimen that makes you question it's early coralroot? Keep in mind that many plants come in a range of colors and this species is no exception. You can always post an image on our Facbook page.

Posted by: Del Stubbs - Western edge Beltrami Cnty, 10 miles north of Solway.
on: 2018-11-05 22:35:08

I just posted about a number of Corallorhiza striata we had in 2017 - 20 feet away in the same shaded forest were just 2 plants of these, the flowers were 1/4 the size of the striata and not easy to find. I was delighted to find orchids with such tiny blossoms. Did not see any in 2018 in the same location.

Posted by: Dale Ogren - Mirror Lake, on State Hwy. 1 west of Hwy. 65 (Togo area)
on: 2020-07-01 07:32:29

There is a sandy path with Mirror Lake on the south and a black spruce bog on the north side of the path. I have walked that path for more than 40 years and a few times have seen the pink and brown moccasin flower, but this year on June 10 I was amazed to see two tiny orchid plants in the moss and tree roots by the lake. I knelt to snap a photo with my cell phone, and the next day I returned with my camera. The orchids were gone, without a trace, except for some deer pellets nearby. I will post my photo on your Facebook page.

Posted by: Jane Johnson - Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center, Cook County
on: 2021-05-27 18:08:09

Nice little clump near the trail today

Posted by: Susan Premo - Lake county
on: 2021-06-26 13:14:28

New for me, beautiful little plant, we saw it along a trail near Isabella.

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