Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata (Spotted Coralroot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Summer Coralroot
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist upland forest, swamps
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:6 to 22 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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] Erect raceme of 6 to 50, ½-inch flowers. Flaring at the top is a central sepal flanked by a pair of petals, with two lateral spreading sepals just below them, the sepals slightly longer than the petals. The tips, edges and outer surface are a deeper brownish purple, often greatly contrasted against much lighter and more brownish yellow ovaries and stem as well as the inner sepal and petals surfaces. The lower lip is white with purple spotting, the larger central lobe is oblong rectangular shaped with an even width through the middle with straight sides, a wrinkled surface and wavy tip curling under, with two short oval lobes at the base. The pollen sacs hug the inside of a curved center column.

[photo of bracts] The large conspicuous ovary and short stalk is subtended by a very short triangular bract 1 mm or less in length.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are reduced to several overlapping sheathes on the lower stem. Smooth throughout, leaves and stem range in color from pale to deeper brownish yellow. Stems are single to multiple clusters.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Ovaries develop into hanging elliptic capsules, typically yellow to yellowish brown at maturity.


In Minnesota, Spotted Coralroot shares the eastern half of Western Spotted Coralroot's (C. maculata var. occidentalis) northern forest range but extends down into our southeastern counties as well. Where they overlap, their habitats are similar enough, though it is rare to find them growing in close proximity. Features that differentiate them are the shape of the lower lip and size of the small lance shaped bract at the base of each flower stalk. The lower lip of var. maculata is more squarish, the sides straight and more or less parallel to each other (1.5-4.5 mm wide) with only the tip wavy ruffled and curled under. The small, narrow lance-shaped bract at the flower stalk base is difficult to observe with the naked eye being 1 mm or less in length. Whether true across all populations within its range or not, in our observations of var. maculata in Minnesota, color of the upper stem and ovaries range more from yellowish to  yellowish brown with only the floral tips typically deep brownish purple. The fruits are also more consistently yellow to yellowish brown when mature, where var. occidentalis is typically more red throughout. Also note that var. maculata starts flowering almost a month later than var. occidentalis and extends its bloom period into August whereas the latter is typically done by late July.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Hare Lake, Lake County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Aitkin County and at Hare Lake and Tettegouche State Park in Lake County


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

Posted by: Tom - Crosby-Manitou State Park
on: 2010-06-07 12:18:21

I was on the "middle trail" at Crosby Manitou on Wednesday, June 2 returning from the cascades on the Manitou River. The plant that I saw and photographed was a single stem of a Spotted Coralroot, not a clump or bunch. It was/is located on the edge of the trail.

Posted by: Sharon - Tower, Mn., Lake Vermilion
on: 2010-06-11 13:23:28

I have this plant growing at our summer residence on Lake Vermilion, Tower, Mn. We are close to the BWCA. The flowers are beautiful, tiny and growing in a cluster of about 10 plants. They're growing along the shoreline where it's semi-shady and moist. This is the first year I've noticed them (June 11, 2010).

Posted by: brenda - Avon
on: 2012-07-18 09:31:25

While helping a friend with her plant survey in Central Mn, we came across spotted coralroot. Neither of us had seen it before or heard of it, but seeing that it had orchid-like flowers we easily identified it. It really made our day! Pretty exciting! We came back to take pictures but couldn't find it , on the second try we found it.

Posted by: Kim - Cook County
on: 2017-08-09 19:22:28

I saw several of these (fruits state) while hiking on the Border Route Trail in the BWCAW between Clearwater and Watap Lakes.

Posted by: Kerrie - Pincushion Mountain Trail just N. of Grand Marias
on: 2018-06-25 16:58:18

I saw a solitary one of these on the SHT trail (between Pincushion Mountain trailhead and the Devil Track River. Always fun to find new flowers.

Posted by: Stacy - Wright County
on: 2020-07-23 23:52:54

I just found this in my wooded backyard. I'd never seen it before. This site has helped me ID many plants I'd never seen before I bought my property. Thank you!

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