Long-lipped Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes longilabris)
Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids WebsiteClassification:
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: Spiranthoideae - Spiranthoids
Tribe: Cranichideae - Cranichids
Subtribe: Spiranthinae - Spiranthines
Summary: Plant a deciduous terrestrial with a few grass-like leaves. Flowers in autumn with a flowering stem under 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall. Flowers typically have widely spread lateral sepals with a rather elongate lip with a lacy margin.
Common Name: Long-lipped Ladies Tresses
Habitat: Terrestrial in open, semi-wet prairies, grasslands, and pinelands.
Flowering season: October through December (peaking in November)
This is a rather uncommon terrestrial and one of the last orchids to bloom in any given year in open, wet areas. Usually at this point, all the surrounding grasses have dried to a deep straw brown, leaving this orchid as one of the few green herbaceous plants remaining.
Plants will have one or a few grass-like leaves clinging to the base of the flowering stem, which usually bears the flowers in a rather lax spiral. The flowers themselves are one of the larger flowers in the genus Spiranthes in Florida, with sepals that usually spread widely with a long, lacy lip held lowermost. Sometimes Spiranthes odorata blooms in nearby areas, allowing occasional hybrids/intergrades to occur with this species.
This species is seldom seen in the wild, although much suitable habitat exists. It is likely that a combination of relative rarity and the late blooming season (which often coincides with hunting season) contributes to this. This particular population in these photographs was a chance discovery by a colleague in the Palm Beach area, adding a new county to its range. Sharp-eyed orchid hunters would do well to keep an eye out for it when out in the field in late autumn.
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