Orchis spectabilis L. - Showy Orchis

Orchis spectabilis plant

Family - Orchidaceae

Stems - Flowering stem to +/-15cm tall, from rhizomes and thick roots, glabrous, simple, herbaceous, erect.

Leaves - Basal, typically 2, elliptic to spatulate or obovate, entire, subsucculent, glabrous, shiny green, tapering to base, rounded at apex, to +7cm broad, +15cm long, sheathing at base. Leaves of flowering stem reduced to foliaceous bracts, lance-oblong, to +4cm long, 2cm broad, entire, glabrous.

Inflorescence - Terminal raceme with +/-5 flowers. Each flower subtended by single foliaceous bract. Bracts sessile.

Orchis spectabilis plantInflorescence.

Flowers - Corolla white to pink and white, to +3cm long, resupinate. Sepals to +1.5cm long, 5mm broad, lanceolate, typically pink but also white, glabrous, forming a hood around the column. Lateral petals linear, to 1.5cm long, 4mm broad, forming hood with sepals. "Lower" petal (lip) to +1.5cm long, +1.2cm broad, (sub)acute at apex, white, glabrous, ovate, with undulate margins, spurred. Spur to +1.5cm long, expanded slightly at apex (clavate). Column to 8mm long, whitish. Stamen 1. Ovary inferior. Capsules to 2cm long, erect, many seeded.

Orchis spectabilis flowerFlower close-up.

Orchis spectabilis flowerCorolla spur.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Ravines, rich and low woods.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This striking little plant is common throughout Missouri but is often not seen by the casual observer because it grows in deep woods and ravines. The flowers are typically white and pink but can be all white also. The flowers are also resupinate so what looks like the top of the flower is actually the bottom and vice versa. The big lip of the corolla is a perfect landing platform for flying insects, the plants main pollinators.
A common synonym is Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 4-21-03.


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