Fragrant Ladies’-Tresses

Florida native orchid:
Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
 A post by Roger L. Hammer

There are eighteen species of Spiranthes native to Florida, along with two varieties of one species, and three intergeneric, naturally-occurring hybrids involving five different species. All are known as ladies’-tresses because of the spiraling habit of the flowers up the stem, which superficially resembles braided hair.

One of my favorite members of this genus is the fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata) and this past Wednesday (11/16) I encountered a flowering colony of them in the flooded prairies of Everglades National Park, where I’ve seen them each Fall over the past two decades. The species name, odorata, refers to the intensely fragrant flowers, so it’s very worthwhile to get your feet wet to get a whiff of the perfume that emanates from the flowers. It’s quite intoxicating.

Although very localized, this native orchid is frequent throughout much of Florida, except the Florida Keys. Look for it in wet prairies, along river banks, edges of ponds, and sometimes even along roadside ditches. November is the best month to look for them.

Roger Hammer's books would make a great gift set for anyone who explores south Florida: Florida Keys Wildflowers and Everglades Wildflowers. And when you make your online purchases here, you support FNPS and it doesn't cost you one extra cent.


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