Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - August 25, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Found a plant with tiny, white, fragrant flowers on spires by a lake near Fredericksburg, TX. Could you possibly identify it?

ANSWER:

This sounds to me like one of the Spiranthes orchids and I think it would be one of the two described below:

Spiranthes cernua (Nodding lady's tresses) described as "flowers sometimes fragrant" and "leaves present at flowering time."  Here is the USDA Plants Database Texas county distribution map.  It is shown occurring in Mason and Llano counties, but not in Gillespie County.

Spiranthes magnicamporum (Great plains lady's-tresses) is described as "flowers fragrant often with strong odor similar to vanilla" and "leaves usually absent at flowering time."  Here is the Texas County distribution map from the USDA Plants Database.  It is shown occurring in Travis and Comal counties but not in Gillespie County.

The fact that neither orchid is shown as occurring in Gillespie County does not mean it doesn't occur there.   All it means is that it hasn't yet been reported there, or to quote the caption beneath the distribution maps on the USDA Plants Database:

"Our county data are based primarily on the literature, herbarium specimens, and confirmed observations. However, not all populations have been documented, so some gaps in the distribution shown above may not be real. Remember that only native and naturalized populations are mapped!"

You can read the description of the two orchids above as well as other Spriranthes species on pp. 1218-1222 of Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas.

If neither of the plants above is the plant you saw and you have a photo of it, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Nodding lady's tresses
Spiranthes cernua

Nodding lady's tresses
Spiranthes cernua

Nodding lady's tresses
Spiranthes cernua

Great plains lady's-tresses
Spiranthes magnicamporum

Great plains lady's-tresses
Spiranthes magnicamporum

More Plant Identification Questions

Iris brevicaulis in Southwest Michigan
April 22, 2007 - We live in Kalamazoo, MI (Southwest Michigan Zone 6) and discovered last year that we have an iris brevicaulis (we think) growing (and very pretty) on our property. It has the "zig zag" stem. It see...
view the full question and answer

Need Plant Identification from Bon Aqua, Tennessee?
September 01, 2010 - By a creek, I found a plant that I have never seen in my life. It has a tall stalk and has leaves like a weed or grass, and the flower looks like a pine tree. The plant looks like a mix of a grass, a...
view the full question and answer

Fragrant night blooming plant
June 09, 2009 - My Grandmother use to have a night fragrant night blooming plant that she referred to as "baby Jesus being born" when it bloomed. Are you familiar with anything of this nature?
view the full question and answer

Books for plant identification of native California species
March 14, 2008 - When I was going to college, many years ago, there was a field book for plant identification for California native species. I am trying to find that book again or at least a good pocket book on plant...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 29, 2008 - I have found what resembles a gooseberry growing from what appears to be a grapevine trellising on a fence beside a lake in East Texas. The stems are smooth and slender, nad as I stated before vine up...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.