Spring Coral Root Flower Spring Coral Root Flower Spring Coral Root Plant

Wildflowers of Southern Arizona

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Spring Coral Root.
Corallorhiza wisteriana.
Orchid (Orchidaceae) family.

Perennial mycotrophic (saprophytic) herb 10 - 40 cm tall. Leaves: none. Inflorescence: a single, erect, terminal, stalked, loose, short to elongate (2 - 30 cm), spike-like cluster of two to twenty, stalked, inconspicuous flowers with each flower subtended by a minute bract. Flowers: somewhat horizontal, yellowish brown to purplish, spotted with purple, 1 - 2 cm long, bilaterally symmetric, lacking a spur, sepals and lateral petals pointed upwards and converging to form a hood over lower petal, which is formed into a protruding, arched, downward curved lip. The reproductive parts of stamens, stigma and style are fused into a 2.4 - 5 mm long column above the 3 - 8 mm long inferior ovary. Column arched and curved toward lip, yellow to white, often purplish toward tip. Sepals: three, petal-like, yellowish brown to purplish, sometimes entirely yellow or greenish near tips, always with three darker nerves, and all pointed upward and closely positioned with lateral petals. The central sepal is 6 - 9 mm long, 1.5 - 2 mm wide, and linear with a blunt or pointed tip. Two lateral sepals 4.5 - 9 mm long, 1 - 2 mm wide, and linear to lance-shaped. Petals: three, upper two converging with sepals to form upward pointed hood over lower, protruding lip. The two lateral petals are 4 - 7 mm long (shorter than sepals), 1 - 2 mm wide, broadly lance-shaped to oblong, pointed at the apex, yellow to purple-brown or greener near the tips, and often spotted with purple. Lip somewhat horizontal but curving out and down, 4 - 7 mm long, 2.5 - 6.5 mm wide, unlobed, egg-shaped or elliptic to almost circular, white with purple spots, and weakly rippled and irregularly toothed along edges. Near the base of the lip petal there are two obvious linear, lengthwise ridges (lamellae). Fruit: several, stalked, 0.7 - 1.2 cm long, 3.5 - 6 mm wide, egg-shaped (or inversely so) to ellipsoid capsules. Flowering stem: single, erect, slender to moderately stout, hairless, fleshy, reddish brown to dark purple or even yellowish, lacking leaves, but with a few, pale, tubular sheaths. This leafless structure terminated by flowers is called a scape and technically is not a true stem. Root system: lacking true roots, but with multiple-branched, coral-like rhizomes. Flowering: April to June.

Similar species: Often C. wisteriana is misidentified as C. maculata but C. maculata has two small lateral lobes or teeth on the lip petal, and the lateral sepals are not upcurved, but rather spreading or curved downward. Habitat and ecology: Found in rich mesic woodlands and dry-mesic areas with ample covering of leaf litter. Etymology: Corallorhiza comes from the Greek words korallion, meaning coral, and rhiza, meaning root, in reference to the branching, underground rhizome, which has a similar appearance to coral. Wisteriana is named in honor of American botanist Charles Wister.

Santa Catalina Mountains.

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