Spiranthes cernua (L.) L.C. Rich.

nodding ladies'-tresses

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Nodding ladies'-tresses is one of the easiest native orchids to cultivate in the garden, if you can provide moist, boggy, acidic soils and partial shade. It can even be grown in containers. The flowers have a wonderful fragrance, and, as the common name suggests, may nod slightly in a breeze.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), fens, forest edges, grassland, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges, wetland margins (edges of wetlands), woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
  • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
  • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
Number of leaves on stem
one
Form of lower petal
the labellum does not have a pouch-like shape
Lower petal outline
the labellum is simple in form
Main color of lower petal
  • green to brown
  • white
  • yellow
Nectar spur
there are no nectar spurs on the flower
Inflorescence type
the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
Lower petal characteristics
the labellum is simple in form
Lower petal length
6–10.5 mm
Sepal length
6–12 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Flower petal color
    • green
    • white
    • yellow
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowering date
    • August
    • October
    • September
    Flowers per inflorescence
    1–40
    Form of lower petal
    the labellum does not have a pouch-like shape
    Hairs on inflorescence axis
    at least some of the hairs on the main stem of the inflorescence have glands
    Inflorescence length
    75–100 mm
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
    Labellum position
    the labellum is in the lower position on the flower
    Length of narrowed base of lower petal
    0.3–0.8 mm
    Lobes at base of lower petal
    0 mm
    Lower petal characteristics
    the labellum is simple in form
    Lower petal length
    6–10.5 mm
    Lower petal outline
    the labellum is simple in form
    Lower petal strongly red-veined
    no
    Main color of lower petal
    • green to brown
    • white
    • yellow
    Nectar spur
    there are no nectar spurs on the flower
    Nectar spur length
    0 mm
    Number of stamens
    1
    Orientation of side petals
    • the lateral petals are angled steeply upwards
    • the lateral petals slant somewhat downward
    Pollen sacs
    the pollinia remain intact and do not fragment into smaller parts
    Self-pollinating flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on this plant
    Sepal length
    6–12 mm
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Shape of viscidium
    • the viscidium is lance-shaped (wider near one end, pointed at the ends)
    • the viscidium is long and narrow
    Spots on lower petal
    no
    Spur opening membrane
    NA
    Spur opening shape
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Seed capsule orientation
    the capsule points upwards or is angled outwards
  • Growth form
    Plant green or not
    the plant is chlorophyllous (it has green parts)
    Roots
    the rhizomes do not resemble coral
    Underground organs
    • the plant has one or more swollen storage organs underground, such as bulbs, tubers or corms
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bract relative length
    the bract is shorter than the associated flower
    Features of leaves
    the leaf does not have any of the mentioned special features
    Leaf arrangement
    • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
    Leaf blade edges
    the edges of the leaf blade have no teeth
    Leaf blade length
    Up to 26 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    • the leaf blade is oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    • the leaf blade is obovate (egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    Leaf blade tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acuminate (tapers to a long, thin point)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    Leaf blade width
    Up to 20 mm
    Leaves during flowering
    • there are leaves on the plant when it is flowering
    • there are no leaves on the plant when it is flowering
    Number of leaves on stem
    one
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • edges of wetlands
    • fens
    • grasslands
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Spiranthes ochroleuca:
distal portion of labellum strongly downcurved and lateral sepals separated from upper sepal by a maximum gap of 0.5-1.1 mm long (vs. S. cernua, with the distal portion of labellum moderately downcurved and lateral sepals separated from upper sepals by a maximum gap of 0.1-0.5 mm).

Synonyms

  • Ibidium cernuum (L.) House
  • Ophrys cernua L.

Family

Orchidaceae

Genus

Spiranthes

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Spiranthes cernua (L.) L.C. Rich. N

nodding ladies’-tresses. Ibidium cernuum (L.) House; Ophrys cernua L. • CT, MA, ME, NH, 
 RI, VT. Open, xeric to hydric sites, including roadsides, borrow pits, woodland openings, fields, 
and sandy, acid wetlands with a shallow horizon of peat. Both Spiranthes cernua and 
 S. ochroleuca can rarely have open inflorescences of spirally secund flowers, similar to 
 S. casei. They both differ from S. casei in having a rounded or acutely pointed labellum and larger flowers (labellum usually longer than 7.5 mm). Spiranthes casei has an apically 
truncate labellum usually shorter than 7.5 mm.