Galearis spectabilis (Showy Orchis)

Plant Info
Also known as: Showy Orchid
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:3 to 9 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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] An erect raceme of 2 to 10 flowers, each ¾ to 1 inch long. Sepals and lateral petals form an arching purple to pink hood. The lower lip is white, broad with ruffled edges. An interesting club-shaped (clavate) spur is behind the flower.

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

[photo of leaves] There are 2 leaves basal, oval, often nearly orbicular, 3 to 8 inches long and up to 3½ inches wide. Stem and leaves are hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an erect capsule up to 1 inch long.


The leaves resemble those of some members of the Lily family, like Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis), but the flowers have no resemblance to any lily. This is one species I would want to come across more.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area, Hennepin County, and Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, Scott County.


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

Posted by: Jeff - Lanesboro
on: 2010-05-06 09:21:01

I have been seeing this plant for the past few years at my work - Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, just North of Lanesboro in SE Minnesota. This year I discovered several dozen plants and wanted to find out more information. The DNR lists it as native but not rare. There doesn't seem to be much info about it.

Posted by: Christine - Decoriah Township, Blue Earth County
on: 2010-05-10 10:51:04

What a surprise and a gift to be fortunate to come across a showy orchis while morel hunting! I saw one lonely little plant.

Posted by: Angie - Sakatah Lake State Park
on: 2010-05-11 08:06:06

By the way - the park is in LeSeur County; the distribution map shows no flowers growing there, but it definitely was.

I have never seen this flower before, and came across a clump while hiking yesterday at Sakata Lake State Park. I took a few pictures to identify it later, then notice that there was a whole patch of it along the trail on both sides. There were tons of other woodland wildflowers in bloom there too, but that was the only place along the way that I saw the orchis.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-05-11 08:25:50

Yeah, I know the USDA maps aren't exactly up-to-date, but they are the only ones available at the moment. Update: we've since replaced USDA maps with our own and continue improving on the mapping process.

Posted by: Pam - Stanchfield
on: 2010-05-20 19:28:34

While morel hunting on 5/20/10, I found a single plant just south of a boggy area in a plot of deciduous woods. This is the first time I have spotted these in our woods and did not find another today, but will continue searching.

Posted by: Bill - luxemberg, mn.
on: 2010-05-27 13:22:35

I took a couple of great photos of this flower and took one into the extension office in for identification. They were kind enough to send me your link.

Posted by: Lisa - Nicollet County
on: 2011-05-15 13:48:43

I was rummaging around in my own wooded yard today,when I practically stepped upon a large clump of these. What a delight!

Posted by: Steve - Eagan, MN
on: 2011-05-18 15:33:39

I just found today four of these in my wooded back yard. I have a 100x200 ft yard with the back half wooded with aspens. Low and behold there they were blooming away. Many surprises back in the woods.

Posted by: Jeff - mankato, mn
on: 2011-05-19 00:59:33

There are many of these in the Williams Nature Center area in Blue Earth County. They are currently blooming but will be done soon. I ran across these several years ago and tend to notice more masses of these every year!

Posted by: Nick - St. Clair
on: 2011-05-19 21:03:42

I recently found this plant in woods near Mayer, Mn. Had no idea what it was. Knew it was a wildflower of some kind. Looked it up on this site.

Posted by: Lisa - Preston, MN
on: 2011-05-25 21:48:59

Saw this flower on state forest land near Rushford today. I am hearing a lot of people (at least in Western Wisconsin) are seeing them for the first time. Same deal for me. And then there's just a few. I find that an interesting fact. I took some photos of it in the rain. It would have been nearly on the Fillmore County/Houston County line.

Posted by: kathi-jo - central mn, about 15 miles SW of st. cloud
on: 2011-05-26 10:26:57

I grew up wandering in the woods of nothern MN. I had never seen anything like this. But last week, while morel hunting, with no luck, I ran into this plant. I knew right away it was an orchid of some kind, because of the leaves. I sent the picture to my friend in OR who is in wetland conservation, and luckily, a native of MN. She sent me pictures and the name right away. I only saw 3 very small clumps the whole 2 days we were out foraging. Such a beautiful plant!

Posted by: Janet - Garfield
on: 2011-05-27 06:43:21

I have several in bloom in our woods outside Alexandria.

Posted by: Andrea - Frazee
on: 2011-05-31 21:10:27

Found this in NW Minnesota (near Detroit Lakes area)in Otter Tail County. Last year I saw only one in the woods (well protected from foot traffic next to a path- fallen tree branches in pile). It was so special to see it. This year I've seen about 6 (3 near a path and 3 scattered in woods). The habitat in the area includes: Red oaks and Maples (mainly maple in the understory), trilliums, hepatica, white ash, basswood, ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), sedge, twisted stalk, Yellow Lady-slippers (found 25 in one area), and other plants. I now will be on the lookout for them more (now that I know the plant's name).

Posted by: Robin - McLeod co. near Hutchinson
on: 2011-06-01 21:47:32

I had seen this plant the last two years while morel hunting but until I found this web site I did not know what it was. Thanks for a great site! It was fun to find such a beautiful small orchid in our woods along the lake. We have several small groups of this plants.

Posted by: Brian - Nicollet County
on: 2011-06-11 00:14:43

I was taken to a colony of these plants on private property in Nicollet County a couple of days ago. They were growing on a sort of raised area in a ravine, with small rivulets coming down the sides. Flowering was over, but these plants were enormous compared to the others that I've seen wild (once only) and in pictures. Lots of other woodland wildflowers, including yellow lady's slippers (also out of bloom), were also growing there - a wonderful spot. Here's a picture of one of the plants:

It's interesting to hear in the comments above that these can be seen in the Williams Nature Center in Blue Earth County. I think that I'll be visiting soon (and next spring)! It's also very interesting to hear of sightings of this species in more northerly parts of Minnesota.

Posted by: Nancy - Becker County
on: 2011-06-18 22:05:00

Found Showy Orchis growing in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge today, after getting a forwarded email tip as to their general location. Counted 11 plants in one area in a moist basswood-maple forest. The blossoms were faded, but still could ID them. Took a waypoint for the refuge for future reference. What a treat to see them!

Posted by: Howard - Sakatah State Park
on: 2012-04-24 20:39:36

Found one, perfect specimen, Showy Orchis plant in full bloom, just 10'-0 north of, and 5'-0 above, the bike trail, east side of park, today, April 24, 2012. I have several photos, but none as fine as those you post on this page. I recall finding another specimen about 25 years ago south of Red Wing in a small creek valley. No Morels for us today.

Posted by: Michael - Richard J. Dorer State Forest Krueger Management Unit
on: 2012-05-06 17:57:10

Saw several in bloom on an old logging trail. Very beauitful, hidden on the downslope side beneath a tree facing south. would not have seen it if the morel didn't catch my eye first, over half pound today. first showy orchis i've ever seen!

Posted by: Nicole - Theilman
on: 2012-05-10 23:28:21

While my dad, fiance, and son were walking in the woods behind our house we found one on the side of a walking path we've used often for many years. After HOURS of research online I finally figured out what that beautiful flower we found was!

Posted by: Carolyn - Savage, MN, Hiking trail near Handrehan Lake
on: 2012-05-13 21:29:04

I was hiking out near Lake Hanrehan. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something light purple and low to the ground. Almost kept walking. So glad I backed up and took a closer look and pictures! What a find. I'm so delighted.

Posted by: Dale - Douglas County, half mile NW of Evansville
on: 2012-05-20 14:08:10

Just found one showy orchis, in bloom, on a slightly used trail in our woods. The plant was nestled in a patch of downy yellow violets, also in bloom, that were nearly hiding it. Only plant I've seen in several years of observing these woods, hope it's a permanent resident now.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2013-03-02 17:53:15

I found one small colony of this plant in Chamberlain Woods SNA (Le Sueur County) in early May 2012.

Posted by: Tom - My back yard
on: 2013-05-23 22:15:45

We have seen this patch about ten feet square in our slightly moist, wooded back yard adjacent to some tufty grass and Jack's in the pulpit.

Posted by: Wes - Wabasha County
on: 2013-05-25 20:43:41

We have a number of plants in various areas of woodland. They appear to be increasing in numbers.

Posted by: Judith - Rice Co, Webster Township and Scott County
on: 2013-06-29 20:11:32

I first saw these in a wood lot in western Scott Co in 1982. I have seen one on my property in Rice Co, as well as another solo one in an adjacent woods. They seem to be solitary. Very delicate, very special.

Posted by: Joel - Olmsted County
on: 2013-09-14 17:21:31

We have a few Showy Orchis growing in our oak woods. Some were on a path, and I dug and moved them so they would not be walked on or mowed. If you would like photos of the roots or entire plants, as dug, let me know. The fleshy 'roots' resemble those of my wife's cultivated orchids.

Posted by: Carole - Kandiohi Co., Charles H. Gernes Mem. Prairie, New London
on: 2014-01-14 13:21:52

Found in woodland borders of property while GPSing the property lines. A very nice surprise!

Posted by: Gretchen - Pope County Nelson Lake Public Access
on: 2014-05-25 19:21:05

Just spotted one of these along the road going into the public access to Nelson Lake.

Posted by: Brett - Mound Prairie SNA
on: 2014-05-25 19:28:44

First time coming across this plant! Only saw two, just off the path into the SNA across from the golf course.

Posted by: cheryl - tony schmidt regional park, arden hills mn
on: 2015-05-09 18:35:11

Found a patch of these at Tony Schmidt Regional park. Beautiful and delicate!

Posted by: Jackie - Frontenac State Park
on: 2015-05-23 14:07:59

Found two different patches of the showy orchid in Frontenac State Park! Very neat to see.

Posted by: Haley C - Dakota
on: 2015-05-23 17:42:23

I was breaking in my new camera and found a small cluster hidden in the grass off of the walking trails in my backyard. I had never seen one before and spent a half hour searching online to see what it was! I hope they come back in the same spot next year, in greater numbers. :)

Posted by: Ron - Buffalo
on: 2015-05-31 08:21:58

I found a one showy orchis plant at a wildlife area under an elm tree in Buffalo. It was a wonderful surprise

Posted by: Shane - Hanover
on: 2015-07-23 10:03:57

Saw several patches of these in the woods for the first time this spring.

Posted by: Roger - Forestville State Park - Fillmore County, near Preston
on: 2016-03-01 12:39:20

I found these growing along a trail in May in Forestville State Park. There were several plants in a group, which I saw for a couple of years in a row. When I went back to check on them the third year, they were gone. I have photos of them.

Posted by: Heather - Mankato
on: 2016-05-12 09:37:58

Currently blooming in Williams Nature Center outside of Mankato. Can be seen just off of the walking path, west loop off of parking lot. 05/12/16

Posted by: kevin - whitetail woods regional park
on: 2016-05-12 21:21:48

Spotted one today in a very remote area of the park.

Posted by: Marcia - Winona County Bronk Trail blufflands
on: 2016-05-15 08:39:45

Found a small clump in a bluffland deciduous hardwood forest, shaded, damp, cool. Beautiful! Also have a lovely photo if needed.

Posted by: David - Frontenac State Park
on: 2016-05-16 10:40:42

We photographed a single plant growing on the side of a ravine next to the trail This was the first time any of us had seen this delightful native orchid.

Posted by: Mike - Normandale Lake Bloomington
on: 2016-05-18 10:06:29

Found several clumps of this unusual plant flowering just off the tar path around Normandale Lake in Bloomington.

Posted by: Holly - Burnsville
on: 2017-05-12 07:42:04

I was so happy to see it as I was picking Garlic Mustard. They take around 15 years to mature/flower, so it is a real treat.

Posted by: Rachael - Wobegon Trail near Sauk Centre
on: 2017-05-25 17:58:07

I was biking roughly three miles west of Sauk Centre on the Wobegon Trail, when the color caught my eye--the wet, shaded, north-facing slope had a whole colony growing at eye level. Quite a surprise considering how the majority of that stretch of trail is prairie!

Posted by: Kay M - Stearns county, near Sauk Centre
on: 2017-05-25 22:06:17

I saw just one plant of these years ago as a teenager in Morrison county south and east of Swanville, MN. I had not seen another since until this evening along the Lake Wobegon Trail, about 2 1/2 miles west of Sauk Centre. There were a number of plants on the trail bank. There were several clumps of multiple plants. I will return tomorrow with my camera to 'capture" them on film.

Posted by: Thomas - Carley State Park
on: 2017-06-04 20:42:08

I found a single plant on a heavily wooded hillside right beside a trail in the park. It was on its way out, with a little bit of brown on the ends of the petals. A cool find nonetheless as this was my first time seeing, or even hearing about, these beautiful native orchids.

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