Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Grassleaf Ladies'-tresses - Spiranthes praecox   (Walter) S. Watson
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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Author(Walter) S. Watson
DistributionEssentially throughout the Coastal Plain, ranging west into the eastern edge of the Piedmont, with an isolated record from Guilford County. All records from the Outer Banks prove to be the newly described S. sylvatica.

This is a primarily Coastal Plain species ranging north to NJ, south to southern FL, and west to eastern TX. Though there are scattered records in northern parts of the Gulf States, it apparently does not quite range north to TN.
AbundanceFairly common in the southeastern Coastal Plain, in coastal counties. Uncommon to infrequent west into the Sandhills and northward to the VA line, in the Coastal Plain. Rare in the Piedmont portion of the range. This is one of the more frequently seen ladies'-tresses in the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a wetland Spiranthes, as are nearly all of those found in the Coastal Plain. It has a wide range of habitats, from wet savannas, to marsh edges, ditches, open swamps, and other damp to wet and fairly sunny sites. It may occur in seepages and bogs farther inland.
PhenologyThis is a spring-blooming Spiranthes, mostly centered in April but from March into July. It fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a fairly "standard" Spiranthes, growing to about 10-12 inches tall, and fairly slender, with a very narrow inflorescence of many small white flowers. The flowers tend to be in a single rank, normally with some spiraling, but some plants have the flowers nearly secund (all on the same side of the stem), whereas others may have a fairly tight spiral. There are a few basal, grass-like leaves. What distinguishes this species from similar ones, such as S. vernalis, is that it has green lines along veins on the upper side of the lip. You may have to look carefully inside each floral tube to see this, but the green lines (not simply a solid green area) should mark the species as being S. praecox. Also, this species is mostly glabrous or sparsely hairy on the upper part of the stem, whereas S. vernalis is definitely pubescent on the upper portions of the stem. Thankfully for observers, this species is not too hard to find in damp to wet spots in the southeastern counties, in the spring season.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Green-vein Ladies'-tresses (a good name), Giant Ladies'-tresses (a poor name)
State RankS3 [S3S4]
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieWhite Pines Preserve, in narrow powerline 29 May 2024. Note short green lines on lip. ChathamPhoto_natural
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