Spiranthes lucida (H.H. Eat.) Ames

Shining Ladies'-tresses

Habitat: Alluvial or damp rocky shores and slopes, rich damp thickets and meadows. [Non-tidal rivershore (non-forested, seasonally wet); Open wetland, not coastal nor rivershore (non-forested, wetland)]

Range: New Brunswick to Ontario, south to Virginia, upland North Carolina and Tennessee, Indiana, and Illinois.

Aids to Identification: Spiranthes lucida has 3-5 erect, oblanceolate to oblong, shiny green, basal leaves. Its short, compact floral spike has 3-4 ranks of flowers. A broad yellow spot on the protruding lip brightens the waxy white tubular flowers. The flowers appear late-June to mid-July, earlier than most other species of Spiranthes.

Ecological characteristics: Spiranthes lucida seems to prefer circumneutral damp soil and may often be found on calcareous gravelly shores. It may be locally abundant but seems infrequent throughout its range, perhaps because it is easily overlooked growing among taller grassy weeds. One author points out that it is usually found in disturbed areas where the water supply is plentiful, as in wet cow pastures growing on hummocks of mud thrust up beside deep cow prints. Another author reports that attempts to grow S. lucida in home gardens have often failed because it "soon falls prey to fungi and slugs which are especially fond of it".

Phenology: Flowers June - July, earliest Spiranthes to flower in our region. Ladies-tresses are leafy stemmed orchids with small, mostly white, flowers borne in spiralled racemes.

Family: Orchidaceae

Synonyms: Ibidium plantagineum Raf.; Neottia lucida H.H. Eat.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 21 town(s) in the following county(ies): Aroostook, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, York.

Reason(s) for rarity: Habitat naturally scarce; near northern limit of range.

Conservation considerations: Maintain hydrologic integrity of its rivershore habitat, including natural disturbance by water and ice. Populations could be threatened by heavy recreational use. Like almost all orchids, this should not be dug or collected from the wild. Although some Spiranthes have been successfully propagated, any plants offered for sale are more likely to have been dug from the wild.