Aplectrum hyemale (Putty-root)

Plant Info
Also known as: Adam and Eve
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaf] 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: Fruit type: capsule/pod

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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Kathleen - Glenwood
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.

Posted by: Anthony - Scott County on State Land
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

Posted by: Barbara
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?

Posted by: Trina - Pine County
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!

Posted by: cheryl b - Elm Creek Park Reserve
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.

Posted by: Susan Premo - Southern, near the Canon river
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.

Posted by: Leanna P - Wright County
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.

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