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|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
Fruit is a dangling capsule, up to 1 inch long.
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.
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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?
on: 2012-06-01 13:23:04
I knew this was a special plant when I saw it last year on a NW slope and had only a faint idea as to ID. Great photos and description nailed ID. Unfortunately has not reappeared this year.
on: 2014-07-15 04:08:18
There is a woods with an immense population of Aplectrum hyemale in Scott County. It is the dominant ground cover with some patches containing 50 seeding stalks
on: 2015-05-26 12:53:53
We are traveling in southern Minnesota this week. My husband photographs grain elevators and wild flowers and is particularly interested in photographing (not injuring in anyway) Putty Root orchids. Can anyone tell us where we might find these?
on: 2016-07-04 10:22:47
I found a Putty Root orchid this weekend in on Pine County land between Askov and Duxbury. I didn't know what it was but took a photo so I could look it up when I returned home. Thanks for your site's help to ID it. It was a joy to find!
on: 2018-05-13 04:07:18
I've seen this the past 4 years at Elm Creek in a mesic oak forest section of the park.
on: 2021-06-23 15:28:05
We saw the leaves, and thought they looked a bit like ramps, but with stripes! There is a very small patch of them. We didn't go back to see if it flowered, but we will next spring. I was looking at pyrola, and was thinking it looked similar, that's wheh I saw your picture of the putty root. So glad I did.
on: 2023-05-17 21:33:23
Was surprised to see this today when out in the woods today- hope to go back and find it again when it flowers now that I know what it is.