WILDFLOWERS OF NEW MEXICO

 
 

With delicate stems 3–21 inches tall (8–55 cm), these petit orchids are often hidden among grasses and sedges in boggy areas. Note the green flower stalk has dense, tight spirals of small, tubular white flowers, each with a protruding lower lip that curls downward. Though widespread throughout the mountainous West, this orchid is rare in northern NM with only 16 recorded locations since 1932. Bumblebees are the primary pollinators.


FLOWER: (July) August–September. A dense spike of up to 45 pearl-white to creamy flowers blooms in 1–4 tight, spiraling rows around an erect stem. Flowers are 1/2 inch long (20 mm) and bilaterally-symmetrical; the white sepals and upper petals form a hood over the throat and lower petal, a lip that that curves abruptly down and is slightly constricted in the middle like an hourglass.


LEAVES: Mainly basal, alternate but greatly reduced up the stem. Blades slender,  3–12 inches long (8–30 cm). Leaves are present while blooming.


HABITAT: Moist soils of mountain meadows, seeps, stream banks, bogs, wetlands; ponderosa-Douglas fir, spruce-fir forests.


ELEVATION: 7,650–10,600 feet.


RANGE: Widespread through Rocky Mts. and all states westward, the Great Lakes states, and New England.


SIMILAR SPECIES: Great Plains Lady's Tresses, S. magnicamporum, in moist prairie habitats at lower elevations, has a protruding lower lip that doesn’t curve down, and usually losses its leaves when in bloom (see photo below). It is widespread in the Great Plains and Great Lakes states but rare in NM. The flowering spikes of bog orchids, Platanthera species, are not in spiraling rows, the flowers have rearward pointing spurs, and leaves grow up the stems.


NM COUNTIES: Northern NM mountains in mid- to high-elevation, moist habitats: Cibola, Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos.

HOODED  LADY'S  TRESSES

SPIRANTHES  ROMANZOFFIANA

Orchid Family, Orchidaceae

Perennial herb

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Flowers spiral in 1–4 tight rows around the stem.

Most leaves are basal; the upper stem has a few greatly reduced, bract-like leaves (arrow).

The lower lip petal curves abruptly downward (arrow).

SIMILAR SPECIES

Great Plains Lady’s Tresses,  Spiranthes  magnicamporum

The lower lip petal is straight and does not curve abruptly downward (arrow).