Friday, April 15, 2011

Western Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes porrifolia)

This lovely species ranges from Washington south to California and east to Montana and Nevada.  It is not uncommon, but is found in only one site in Washington state, where these pictures were taken.  It is at the northern limit of its range in Washington.

The name, Ladies' Tresses, the common name of all the Spiranthes refers to the braided appearance of the flower spikes.  The individual flowers are arranged in such a way that they spiral around the stem, giving a braided appearance.

This species is 30-40 cm tall in the Washington location, grows in loose clumps, and has three or four leaves at the base of stem.  The flowers are creamy white and usually grow in damp areas with good drainage.  The individual flowers are only 1 cm in size but each spike holds up to 50 or 60 of the flowers.


  1. Hi, I found some "LADIES TRESSES" in a small grassy clearing in ASHFORD WASHINGTON. I had never seen the plant before so took pictures with my phone and then looked it up. I found 3 spikes. RARE FLOWER? Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny,
      Don't know any other way to contact you, but what you've found are much more likely Spiranthes romanzoffiana, the Hooded Ladies'-tresses. The species in this post is known from only one site in the Columbia River gorge. I'd like to see your pictures.