Q: I have seen flowers growing along side the road. They are sitting atop a stalk about 8-12 inches high. The flowers are very tiny and white. They spiral around the top of the stalk. What are they?

A: How observant of you! I have been seeing this plant too on my walks around my home. I believe the wildflowers you are describing are called Spring Lady’s Tresses, Spiranthes vernalis. This plant is a terrestrial orchid and different varieties of it appear in the spring, summer and fall. Some nurseries will sell a close relative of the Spring Lady’s Tresses which produces a pleasant fragrant. This orchid is a monocot (for you Master Gardeners and science advocates) which means it looks similar to plants in the grass family. It can grow in a variety of site conditions but seems to prefer sandy soil. Spring Lady’s Tresses can be found as far west as Texas and north to Canada; all along the eastern part of the United States. In Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania this plant is listed by the U.S. federal government as endangered. It is on the threatened list for Iowa and Massachusetts and several states have it listed as rare. This should remind us that even the tiny, inconspicuous flowers are valuable.

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Posted: June 16, 2017


Category: Home Landscapes
Tags: Spiranthes Vernalis, Spring Lady’s Tresses


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