Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt.

Putty Root, Adam and Eve Orchid


CC = 8
CW = 0
MOC = 35

© SRTurner

Family - Orchidaceae

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

Stem - Erect, to 60 cm.


© GVanBrunt

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.


© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Terminal raceme.

Aplectrum_hyemale_bud.jpg Flower buds.

© SRTurner

Aplectrum_hyemale_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

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_flower4.jpg Flower, lateral view,

© SRTurner

Aplectrum_hyemale_flower.jpg Flower.

© SRTurner


© SRTurner


© SRTurner

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

Aplectrum_hyemale_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Rich mesic forests.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Broadly, species of Corallorhiza.

Other info. - This is one of the more common orchids in Missouri. It has been reported predominantly from counties toward the eastern side of the state, and it also ranges throughout the northeastern U.S. The single basal leaf has a highly distinctive pinstriped and pleated appearance. These are often seen in rich forests during the winter, when they are 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 common sight in the same areas, in late fall.

The corms of this species are often produced in pairs, giving rise to the "Adam and Eve" moniker. The corms produce a mucilaginous substance which was once used as a glue, and this property is responsible for the "putty root" colloquial name. This plant is the sole species in the genus Aplectrum, a term which comes from an old Greek word meaning "spurless." The specific epithet hyemale means "of winter," the time when the distinctive leaves are most evident.

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