Spiranthes ochroleuca (Rydb.) Rydb. - Yellow Ladies' Tresses


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Spiranthes ochroleuca - (image 1 of 4)



Family: Orchidaceae


Dry open woodlands, meadows, fields, roadsides, typically where the vegetation is short or sparse.




Southern Canada, ME, VT, NH, NY, south through mountains to NC and western SC, west to eastern OH and MI and along the lake in northwestern IN, disjunct in southern IN.


Perennial to 40 cm. Leaves usually present during anthesis, withering shortly after; flowers yellowish; lateral sepals flattened, straight (rarely downwardly falcate) and relatively low on the flower often leaving a gap, the apex linear-lanceolate; labellum butterscotch yellow on the underside and centrally above, abaxial glands prominent and spherical; basal callosities well-developed, 1-2 mm long; seeds monoembryonic; 2n=30.


Flowers mid-September to mid October in NY

Wetland indicator: NA

Genetics suggest this species is a possible progenitor of S. arcisepala, S. casei, and S. sheviakii, the latter two of which it sometimes occurs with. While it can be found with S. arcisepala, it usually occupying the drier parts of the habitat where they co-occur. The presence of monoembryonic seeds can be useful for separating S. ochroleuca from similar members of the Spiranthes cernua species complex.

Can hybridize with S. cernua to form the hybrid S. kapnosperia. This hybrid is only known from a very limited range in the Smokey Mountains and is paler yellow on the underside of the labellum and has lateral sepals that are more acuminate at the apex.


Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second Ed.
The New York Botanical Garden. Bronx, NY.


M. Hough and M.A. Young. 2021. A systematic survey of the Spiranthes cernua species complex (Orchidaceae) in New York. Native Orchid Conference Journal, 18(3): 22-56.


Pace, M.C. and Cameron, K.M. The systematics of the Spiranthes cernua species complex (Orchidaceae): Untangling the Gordian Knot. Systematic Botany, 42(4):1-30.




 Michael Hough 2017