Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Water-spider Orchid - Habenaria repens   Nuttall
Members of Orchidaceae:
Only member of Habenaria in NC.
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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DistributionOccurs throughout the southern 40% of the Coastal Plain, and sparingly north to Chowan and Pasquotank counties. Barely enters the southeastern corner of the Piedmont in Anson County, but the population there consists of 500 plants in an old quarry.

A Southern species that ranges northeast to northern NC, and reported but not verified from southeastern VA. It ranges south to the Gulf Coast throughout FL and west to eastern TX, and then northwest to AR and OK. Also south through Mex. and the neotropics.
AbundanceGenerally uncommon in the southern part of the Coastal Plain, north to Moore and Craven counties. Rare farther north to Chowan and Pasquotank counties, and very rare into the southeastern edge of the Piedmont. This is an NC Watch List species.
HabitatThis is not just a wetland orchid species, but it is nearly an aquatic one. It is usually found in very shallow fresh water (mainly along the margins) of impoundment lakes, beaver ponds, marshes, edges of blackwater swamps and streams, and other places with standing, acidic water.
PhenologyA very long potential blooming period from April into fall, and fruiting during the same period.
IdentificationThis orchid usually grows in very dense stands, with the stems mainly to about 1-1.5 feet tall. It has numerous narrow stem leaves, angled strongly upward. However, it should be identified by its inflorescences, which cover the top third of the stem. It consists of several dozen fairly small (about 1/2-inch across) pale green to pale greenish-yellow/cream flowers that look quite "spidery", almost like crab spiders; they are close to (but slightly paler than) the color of the stem, such that the whole plant has a yellow-green look. There should be little trouble identifying the species, especially owing to its semi-aquatic habitats.
Taxonomic CommentsNone. It is one of the very few species in the genus Habenaria from older days (such as in RAB 1968) that were not transferred over to the genus Platanthera.

Other Common Name(s)Floating Orchid, Waterspider Bog Orchid
State RankS2 [S2S3]
Global RankG5
State StatusW1
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
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B.A. SorrieRichmond County, 2011, W end of McKinney Lake. RichmondPhoto_natural
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