Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis (Southern Slender Ladies'-tresses)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Spiranthes
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; plains, open meadows
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:5 to 20 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

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

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Tightly to loosely packed spike cluster of tiny, white, trumpet-like flowers spiraling up at the tip of a slender stem, though occasionally the flowers are arranged in a (more or less) straight column up one side (secund). Individual flowers are ¼ inch or less in length, often nodding, the narrow lateral sepals spreading wide like open arms with the lance-like lateral petals and upper sepal closely aligned, their tapered tips flared up, making a three parted hood above the frilly, broadly spreading lower lip. The center of the lower lip is tinged green or yellow. An erect, sharply tapered oval green bract encloses the ovary at each flower's base. A spiral typically has 4 to 6 flowers in a cycle.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of stem leaves] Basal leaves are variable but generally oval-elliptic, up to 2 inches long and to ¾ inch wide, and typically wither away by flowering time. A few sheathing, bract-like leaves are scattered along the stem. The stem is hairless.

Notes:

Two varieties of Spiranthes lacera are recognized in Minnesota: Southern Slender Ladies'-tresses (var. gracilis, sometimes known by synonym Spiranthes gracilis) is, as the name suggests, the more southern species and associated with open meadow from the eastern Great Plains and throughout the southeastern US. In Minnesota this species is known only from two 100+ year old specimens collected somewhere in Hennepin county. Present in bordering counties of both Iowa and Wisconsin, it might appear again someday in our southern counties. Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses (var. lacera) is considered a northern variant and is prevalent across the NE third of the state, preferring dry sandy soils often associated with stands of Jack pine throughout the Great Lakes and New England.  It's distinguished from var. gracilis by hairs on the stem, basal leaves persisting through flowering time, and usually 8 to 10 flowers in a cycle of the spiral.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds

More photos

Photos courtesy Vicky May taken in Arkansas.

Comments

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

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.