Season: June to August
Habitat: Montane Moist Meadows, bogs and depressions
Height: 10-40 cm
Description: This common orchid tends to peek from a ground covering of horsetail or dense grasses, and as such, it is often missed. It is quite common though, and worth looking for. It has a green stem with grass-like leaves. The flowers appear in a crowded spike of white, orchid-like flowers which grow in a spiral.
Flower: The flowers occur in a dense spike of delicate white orchids. The white to greenish-white flowers occur in three spiralling rows with green bracts adding to the twisted appearance of the spike. The individual flowers. Three upper sepal and petals combine to form a hood which some people feel resembles an old fashioned bonnet. This, along with the braided appearance of the sprial rows of flowers, led to the common name hooded ladies' tresses. the lip, bends sharply downward, extending 9-12 mm. Get close to the flower head and you'll notice its distinctive, vanilla-like smell.
Leaf: The linear to lanceolate leaves sheath the stem and are much larger near the base of the plant. They are smooth margined and the lower leaves are 5 to 20 cm long and 5 to 10 cm wide. The upper leaves are reduced to a sheath-like bract around the stem.
Fruit/Seed: The plant produces a spike of small 10 mm long oval to elliptical capsules.
Similar Species: The distinctive spiral arrangement of the flowers help to distinguish this plant from any other. Rein-orchids lack this arrangement, and also show a prominent spur which ladies' tresses lack.
Range: Common in central to southern British Columbia, throughout Alberta and east all the way to Newfoundland. The southern range extends to California, Arizona, South Dakota and east to Pennsylvania.
Notes: The Gosiute Indians of Utah used this plant as a treatment for venereal disease.
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Hooded Ladies' Tresses/Ladies' Tresses