This Spiranthes hardly looks like an orchid. Out of bloom, its thin, skinny leaves look like they belong to a weed. Even in bloom, the tiny white flowers bear little resemblance to its grand tropical relatives. Spiranthes’ name hints at its spiral arrangement of flowers. These scented blooms, just over half an inch (1.3 cm) long, twist down in a pattern that’s inspired the nickname “Fragrant Ladies’ Tresses.” This species, Spiranthes odorata, is native to marshy areas and wetlands of the Eastern USA, south to Florida and Texas. It has a vanilla-like fragrance.

Spiranthes flowersSpiranthes flowers arranged in a spiral patternSpiranthes flower close up

Spiranthes flowers may not turn many heads, but they’re unusual and easy to grow. These terrestrials, along with the Stream Orchid, are rare exceptions to the rule to never allow orchids to sit in water. This species can grow in standing water, and it’s often used in terrariums and aquariums. It’s one of the easiest native North American orchids to keep. To grow it, provide morning sun, afternoon shade, regular water, and regular fertilizer (they love compost!) It’s not necessary to keep the plant in water, but don’t let it dry out. Spiranthes go dormant and drop their leaves over winter. New leaves emerge from fleshy roots in the spring.

Spiranthes flowers, showing spiral arrangementSpiranthes flowers and buds arranged in a spiralSpiranthes leaves and flower spike

Many Spiranthes varieties grow all over the world, but most aren’t as easy to keep in cultivation as this species. Another Spiranthes species, nicknamed the Giant Spiral Orchid, recently popped up in a North Carolina Tideland News story. Spiranthes certainly add an interesting twist to the orchid world.

Explore posts in the same categories: Cool Growers, Dormancy, Fertilizing, Fragrant Orchids, Growing, In the News, Photos, Watering

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5 Comments on “Spiranthes”

  1. Makhariya98 Says:

    we r in Georgia and have those near us. I never knew there were orchids. I never thought much of them before, but I have more respect now.

  2. Marc Says:

    And here’s another news article about an endangered Texas species, Spiranthes parksii, or Navasota Ladies’ Tresses — http://www.thevindicator.com/news/article_7e4b0946-4162-11e2-8aae-0019bb2963f4.html

  3. Shannon Barnao Says:

    cool photos

  4. nex nc Says:

    Most people treat them like weeds here in North Carolina. I let them grow because I like the scent. I love seeing the little bitty buds come out.

  5. Arshi Aggarwal Says:

    Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and Iā€™m impressed! Very useful information particularly the last part šŸ™‚ Thank you.