Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Slender Ladies'-tresses - Spiranthes lacera   (Rafinesque) Rafinesque
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
Author(Rafinesque) Rafinesque
DistributionOccurs from the Mountains through the Piedmont, though with a higher percentage of county records from the Mountains than downstate. There are numerous holes in the range and it could possibly occur in more counties. Coastal Plain records now belong to S. eatonii.

This is a widespread Eastern species, ranging across much of Canada and south to northern FL and central TX.
AbundanceFairly common in the Mountains, but generally uncommon to infrequent in the Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a Spiranthes of rather dry to mesic soil instead of moist to wet soil. It prefers full or partial sun, and occurs in meadows, grassy fields, powerline clearings, and very open upland woods.
PhenologyThis species is a late summer or early fall bloomer -- generally in August and September; it fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a slender ladies'-tresses that has a generally glabrous stem; it grows to an average of 1-1.5 feet tall. The white flower cluster typically is a single rank but is quite strongly spiraled. The lip is either green or striped with green; basal leaves are generally gone by the time of flowering. The species is generally separated from others by its growing in usually dry grassy places, its August or September flowering, and the green lip. As it is not a rare species, it is one of the more frequently seen ladies'-tresses in the mountains and Piedmont, at least in drier sites; P. cernua is the most frequent one in these areas in damp ground. S. eatonii differs mainly in the lateral sepals broad at the tip (vs. narrow), sepals green based, and flowering May-July (perhaps a bit earlier).
Taxonomic CommentsCurrently, the species is split into two varieties found in NC -- the widespread form -- S. lacera var. gracilis and the very rare high elevation S. lacera var. lacera. A few decades ago, this species was named as Spiranthes gracilis, such as in RAB (1968).

Other Common Name(s)None; the var. gracilis is named as Southern Slender Ladies'-tresses and the var. lacera is the Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses.
State RankS4? [S4]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken 1974, Bourne, MA. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC

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