Index- plants in this Family
Orchidaceae / Orchid
Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes lacera)
Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses is also known as Ladies' Tresses and Slender Ladies'-tresses. Formerly considered Spiranthes gracilis.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 70cm in height (28inches).
Leaves: This plant has basal leaves only. Each leaf is ovate or lanceolate and entire. There are few leaves and sometimes none when the plant is flowering.
Flowers: The flowers are irregular in shape . They are white with green stripe on the lip. Blooms first appear in mid spring and continue into mid fall. The single row of small flowers appears to have been twisted into a tight sprial.
Habitat: Well drained, open woods or fields.
Range: All of eastern and midwestern U. S.

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The Spiranthes or Ladies'-tresses are difficult to identify to species level. Spiranthes means "coil flower" referring to the spiral arrangement of the flowers. It should be noted that occasionally the flowers do not spiral but line up on one side of the stem.

Lore: The Cherokees used a plant tea of Ladies'-tresses to wash infants to insure fast healthy growth.(Hamel/Chiltoskey) The root of European species have also been used as an aphrodisiac.(Foster & Duke) (Grieve)

Medical Uses: Native Americans and herbial healers have used the plant as a diuretic for urinary problems and skin infections, painful breasts and eye problems.(Hamel/Chiltoskey) (Grieve)

Similar Species: There are several similar species listed in some books that are now not considered separate species and have been grouped with other species and considered variants. Texas ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes brevilabris) is distinguished by having a downy flower spike. It is found in the deep south from Florida to Texas. Little Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes tuberosa), AKA Spiranthes grayi has narrow leaves and smaller flowers. Spring Ladies'-tresses or Upland Ladiestresses (Spiranthes vernalis can reach a height of 1.2 meters (4'), has narrow leaves on the stem as well as the base. The flowers are yellowish or white and have a pronounced fragrance. It is in most of eastern North America in bogs, wet woods or fields and beaches. It begins blooming in January in the deep south and is in bloom in the north late in the year.

Other Spiranthes have flowers that do not spiral or have more than one row of flowers such as Nodding Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes cernua

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© Daniel W Reed   E-mail      Image use policy

Northern Slender Ladies'-tresses, Spiranthes lacera
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Ladies'-tresses, Northern Slender (Spiranthes lacera) - close view of flower  © Daniel Reed

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Monocots / One Seed Leaf



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