Last we met, I introduced you to two uncommon orchids that occur in isolated areas of Georgia. They were small blossoms with a winter leaf, and were hard to distinguish the two separate species. Let’s look at a similar orchid that also blooms on a spike but has curious habit – the blossoms twirl around the central spike making it easy to identify if you were so lucky as to locate this fascinating plant. A Lady’s tress is defined in any dictionary as a long curl of hair and that is exactly how the Ladies’ Tresses Orchid can be described. There are about 45 species of this orchid worldwide and a dozen can be found in Georgia although most are very rare. The Spiranthes odorata, or Marsh Ladies’ Tresses, grows in moist open woodlands and is more common in South Georgia although I have found a few in Central and North Georgia.
Each blossom is white, sometimes light yellow, with several dozen 1/4 inch blooms opening from bottom to top. It is pollinated by bumblebees who are drawn to its pleasant scent and plentiful nectar.
Ladies’ Tresses should not be removed from their native habitat since they will not survive in a cultivated garden. Nursery specimens are available and the right combination of soil, ample moisture, and no fertilizer should produce years of blooms. They then can be separated by rhizome division to produce new plants.
Wow! We very rarely see Ladies’ Tresses in Georgia but when we do, we can’t forget the minute twirling blossoms characteristic of its species.