Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.
Spiranthes cernua (L.) Rich.
Nodding Ladies'-tresses, Ladies'-tresses, Nodding Lady's Tresses
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
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.
From the Image Gallery
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , 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
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
BibliographyBibref 417 - Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (2000) Foster, S. & J. A. Duke
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Spiranthes cernua in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Spiranthes cernua in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Spiranthes cernua
MetadataRecord Modified: 2019-12-03
Research By: TWC Staff