Neottia auriculata (Auricled Twayblade)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; acidic, sandy, alluvial soil, mossy banks, hardwood forest along streams, under alders, rocky shore of Lake Superior
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:4 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Loose raceme of 5 to 20 stalked, irregular flowers at the tip of the stem. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch long, pale green, with a short, curved central column and a lower lip that is more or less oblong but slightly broader at the tip end, often translucent around the edges and notched up to 1/3 its length, the 2 lobes broadly rounded at the tip. At the base of the lower lip is a pair of narrow lobes (auricles) that curve around the back of the column. The lateral petals and sepals are about 1/8 inch long. linear to lance-elliptic, curving to a pointed tip; the upper petal curls back away from the column. Flower stalks are covered in glandular hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] A single pair of stalkless, opposite leaves sits about halfway up the stem. Leaves are 1 to 2¼ inches long, 2/3 to 1½ inches wide, toothless, hairless, egg-shaped to oval or nearly round with a blunt or softly pointed tip. The stem is green and glandular hairy above the leaves, smooth below.


This is indeed a rare one, with only a handful of sightings in Minnesota during the last 100 years or so, and it is equally as rare throughout most of its range. Typically found in the sediment or mossy banks of cool streams in hardwood or mixed forests (often under alders), in Minnesota it also populates the rocky shore of Lake Superior. According to the DNR, it was listed as a State Endangered species in 1996 due to its few locations, low populations, the threats of high water levels (man-made or natural) causing habitat destruction, and the fact that it does not seem to persist long at any one location. Most of the populations indicated by herbarium records no longer exist so it was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime event for us to stumble upon it along the north shore of Lake Superior in Cook County, and a significant population at that.

Neottia auriculata was formerly known as Listera auriculata. While the leaves are similar to Heart-leaved Twayblade (Listera cordata), the flowers are easily distinguishable, with L. cordata having a narrow lower lip that is forked like a snake's tongue. Even more rare is the similar Broad-leaved Twayblade (Neottia convallarioides), which has flowers with a lower lip that is not auricled or notched at the tip.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Robert Freeman - Cook County, St. Louis County
on: 2018-09-30 21:26:47

During the 2014 North American Native Orchid Conference at Itasca State Park several members went searching the herbarium locations and were successful in finding it in 3 of the 4 locations. Due to its size do not write off the herbarium locations as extinct as we were able to locate the plant last seen over 60 years ago in two of the locations. The Auricled Twayblade has been reclassified as Neottia auriculata, the moderators should update the website to reflect the correct nomenclature.

Posted by: Elaine Erickson - Cook County, east of Grand Marais
on: 2021-07-08 08:47:44

We found several near Lake Superior shoreline in alders.

Posted by: Jim Cramton - Cook County, 12' from lake superior
on: 2023-08-26 21:44:06

Two individuals in fruit with flower remnants. Growing just off of a very well used walking trail, among cedar, birch, alder, and dogwoods.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the spammers out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.