Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt.

Putty Root, Adam and Eve Orchid

Aplectrum hyemale plant

Family - Orchidaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, from a globose tuberous corm and roots with mycorrhizal dependency.

Stem - Erect, to 60 cm.


Leaf - Basal leaf 1, petiolate, arising from youngest corm, overwintering. Basal leaf blade elliptic, glabrous, papery, slighly corrugated, dark green with conspicuous lighter colored parallel venation. Cauline leaves reduced to sheathing bracts.

Aplectrum_hyemale_leafBasal leaf.

Inflorescence - Terminal raceme.

Aplectrum_hyemale_budFlower buds.


Flowers - Sepals and lateral petals similar, 10-15 mm long, oblanceolate, yellow to brownish green with purple tips. Lip 10-15 mm long obovate, with 2 short lateral lobes, white with purple markings. Column 8-12 mm long, pale green with purple spots. Stamen 1.

Aplectrum_hyemale_flower4Flower, lateral view,




Fruits - Pendent capsules, 1.5-2.5 cm long, elliptic in outline, strongly ribbed.


Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Rich mesic forests.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This is one of the more common orchids in Missouri. The single basal leaf is often seen in rich forests during the winter, when it is almost the only green thing present. The leaf manufactures food for the plant throughout the winter and early spring months, enabling production of the inflorescence in mid-spring. The dried fruit stalks are also a reasonably common sight in the same areas, in late fall.

Photographs taken at Faust County Park, St. Louis County, MO, mostly on 5-7-2014 (SRTurner). Photo of corm by G.Van Brunt.