Spiranthes magnicamporum (Great Plains Ladies'-tresses)

Plant Info
Also known as: Late-flowering Ladies-tresses
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist open prairie
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:4 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are closely intertwined in 3 rows, spiraling up a 1 to 4 inch spike with up to 48 blossoms, typically 3 to 4 flowers in 1 cycle of the spiral. The petals and sepals are white except for a tinge of yellow on the lower lip, up to ½ inch long, opening out creating a winged trumpet like appearance. The end of the lower lip unfurls down like a ruffled tongue while the 2 narrow lateral sepals flare out and up. often above the flower. The side and upper petals overlap creating a narrow lance-like hood curled up at the tips. The green bracts are oval, curling around the ovary before tapering to a sharp tip above the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of stem leaves] Basal leaves are long and slender, up to 5½ inches long, ½ inch wide and wilt away around 2 weeks before the flowers appear. The stem is stiffly erect with 4 to 6 sheath-like bracts that wrap the stem, the tips over lapping the base of the bract above.


Until 1973, Great Plains Ladies'-tresses was considered to be the same species as Nodding Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes cernua). Habitat is one distinguishing characteristc, S. magnicamporum preferring open prairie and higher pH soils and is found in both low, moist areas and higher, gravelly sites. In appearance the differences are more subtle; unlike S. cernua, the lateral sepals are more flaring, often above the flower. The marked absence of lower leaves at flowering time is also key to an ID.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Whitewater WMA, Winona County, and in McLeod County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Douglas, McLeod and Winona counties.


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

Posted by: Dave - Pomme de Terre Park, Morris
on: 2016-02-16 21:25:08

I stumbled across a number of these tiny beautiful orchids in the road ditch 2 falls ago and saw even more this last fall. Their vanilla like fragrance is wonderful! I'm surprised there is no mention of their scent in your description. I also found them at Roscoe TNC/DNR SNA north of Paynesville last fall, along the road ditch and scattered in the prairie.

Posted by: Neal - City of Winona, Winona County
on: 2016-09-06 16:41:56

These are currently (09/06/16) in bloom on the dry bluff prairie at the Garvin Heights natural (undeveloped) overlook, along with Stiff Goldenrod, Blazing Star, and various asters.

Posted by: Kirk P - Rochester
on: 2017-09-15 16:21:56

Great Plains Ladies' Tresses blooming currently in the quarry at Quarry Hill Park on the east edge of Rochester. September 15, 2017.

Posted by: Randy S - Section 3 Township 107N Range 26W
on: 2017-12-29 13:18:45

Small population in edge fen on my property. Plants are expanding into adjacent prairie restoration.

Posted by: Peg Furshong - Hawk Creek Township, Renville County
on: 2019-09-10 09:36:55

We have had several of these in our native prairie remnant for the past two years due to the wetter weather. Saw about two dozen plants last evening despite the cooler weather and rain.

Posted by: Jon Nicholson - Winona County, New Hartford Township
on: 2022-06-18 11:05:56

I found several of these plants high on a flat area of a goat prairie overlooking the Mississippi. On a rock platform about 10' above them, there is a colony of Pasqueflowers. So the soil is fairly dry and prairie-ish, but not arid. And we normally get plenty of rainfall in our area.

Posted by: Kevin Stark - Rushford
on: 2022-09-18 09:25:11

Found in Magnesun Bluff Park in Rushford. Southwest facing slope. Flowering on September 17th, 2022.

Posted by: Bill Carter
on: 2022-09-23 12:12:35

Another find in Winona Co, MN (Wiscoy township) on SW facing bluff prairie. A few dozen were scattered about.

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