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McAdoo, David R.
Spiranthes cernua (L.) Rich.
Nodding lady's tresses, Ladies' tresses, Nodding ladies' tresses orchid
Synonym(s): Ibidium cernuum, Spiranthes cernua var. incurva
USDA Symbol: SPCE
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Few people would guess that Spiranthes flowers are orchids, a fact that may help save them from collectors. The narrow, grasslike leaves are 8–10 inches long, growing from the base of the plant. The flowers are white and grow along the upper part of the slender, erect stem, which is 1–2 feet tall. They grow in 2–4 spiraling rows, forming a dense spike 6 inches long. The individual flowers, about 1/2 inch long, curve downward slightly, nodding. The lip is about 1/2 inch long, with a flaring, crimped margin. This is one of the few orchids that have a fragrance.
A dozen or more species of Ladies-tresses are known in the eastern United States. Among those with pronounced spirals are Slender Ladies-tresses (S. lacera), with ovate leaves and a green spot on the lip; Short-lipped Ladies-tresses (S. brevilabris), with a downy floral spike; and Little Ladies-tresses (S. tuberosa), with tiny flowers. In southern marshes and swamps Fragrant Ladies-tresses (S. odorata), grows to 2-3 (60-90 cm) and has spirally arranged clusters of fragrant flowers.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Purple
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug
, WV Canada: NB
, PE Native Distribution:
Ontario to Nova Scotia and northern New England; south to Florida; west to Texas; north to South Dakota. Native Habitat:
Fields, damp meadows, moist thickets, and grassy swamps.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Clay, Loam, Sand
BenefitUse Medicinal: Plant tea used as a diuretic for urinary disorders, venereal disease, and as a wash to strengthen infants. (Foster & Duke)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
American Native Nursery
- Quakertown, PA
Record Last Modified: 2010-12-30
Research By: TWC Staff