ghost orchid

Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Neottioideae -
                    Tribe:   Neottieae -
                      Subtribe:   Listerinae - Listera and related


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)
Description:
Synonyms: Neottia bifolia (Raf.) Baumbach, Orchidee (Hamburg) 60: 332 (2009). Neottia australis (Lindl.) Rchb.f. in W.G.Walpers, Ann. Bot. Syst. 3: 595 (1852), nom. illeg. Diphryllum australe (Lindl.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 659 (1891). Ophrys australis (Lindl.) House, Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 32: 379 (1905). Bifolium australe (Lindl.) Nieuwl., Amer. Midl. Naturalist 3: 129 (1913).

Summary: Small terrestrial plants consisting of a single stem with two (rarely three) leaves located midway up the stem. Up to 30 flowers (although typically 10 or fewer) on the flowering stem. Flowers small, around 1 cm long (including the lip). Sepals and petals tiny, lip the largest feature of the flower, long, threadlike, forked.

Common Name: Southern Twayblade

Habitat: Moist hardwood forests; wet bottomlands; swamps; moist, acidic bogs

Flowering season: December through June (peaking in February)

Images:
 
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) -
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) -
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis)
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) - flowers closeup.
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) - flowers closeup.
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) - flower closeup.
Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) - flower closeup.

Description:
 

This terrestrial orchid is probably more common than the vouchered specimen map above would suggest, but it is so small as to be easily overlooked in the moist woodlands that it calls home, found in both moist pineland bogs and moist hardwood forests. The plant is seldom more than three inches (7.5 cm) tall, with a pair of leaves seldom more than a half-inch (1.2 cm) long. If you are fortunate to find a plant, don't look away, lest you spend another five to ten minutes relocating it. Seedlings consist of only the stem and the pair of leaves (rarely three in fma. trifolia), while mature plants will have a flower stem arising from between their leaves. The flowers are a wonder of miniaturization, with petals and sepals only about 1 mm long. The forked lip is by far the most conspicuous part of the flower, reaching lengths of a half-inch (1.2 cm) or so.

The specific epithet australis means "southern", but this is somewhat of a misnomer with this species, which ranges from Newfoundland down to central Florida.

There seems to be somewhat of a disconnect on the classification of this species. European botanists and botanical organizations (including RGB Kew) favor the name Neottia bifolia for this species, while American botanists tend to favor Listera australis as the valid name. The American Orchid Society tends to follow Kew's direction on classification, so it favors the Euro-centric classification as well.

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