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Cephalanthera austiniae (Phantom orchid)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Cephalanthera austiniae

Cephalanthera austiniae (A. Gray) A. Heller

Phantom Orchid, Snow Orchid

Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Synonym(s): Eburophyton austiniae


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Cephalanthera austiniae is achlorophyllous and is mycoheterotrophic; that is, it utilizes Thelephora-Tomentella group ectomycorrhizal fungi to parasitize the roots of other plants.

A waxy, white, nearly leafless plant with stems in clusters and racemes of 5-20 bilaterally symmetrical, white flowers.

This aptly named plant appears ghostly in the dim light of the forest floor. Since it is not green and is therefore incapable of photosynthesis, it is dependent on a symbiotic relationship with soil-borne fungi for the acquisition of carbon.

This species was once considered the sole member of the genus Eburophyton; it is now recognized as belonging to Cephalanthera, a genus of about 12 species throughout the Northern Hemisphere. This species is the sole North American member of its genus, the rest being Old World species.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: CA , ID , OR , WA
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: Northern Washington south to northern California mountains and southern Sierra Nevada, and east to Idaho.
Native Habitat: Dense, moist, usually coniferous woods

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Humus Enriched


Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Cephalanthera austiniae in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cephalanthera austiniae in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cephalanthera austiniae


Record Modified: 2023-04-24
Research By: TWC Staff

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