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Spiranthes spiralis - Autumn Lady's Tresses

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Spiranthes spiralis - Autumn Lady's Tresses

This orchid is localised and colonies can be found in southern England and Wales and in south-west Ireland.

This orchid can occur in vast numbers one year and then virtually disappear for several years before reappearing in even greater numbers than before.

Autumn Lady's Tresses grow up to about 20 cm tall, and their blue-green leaves cling to the stem and look almost like scales. The way in which the flowers grow is a clue to the origin of the plant's Latin name, Spiranthes spiralis, since they form a spiral around the stem.

Closeup of flowers, Spiranthes spiralis

This orchid favours short, cropped grass and grows on coastal flat-topped cliffs and dunes and often appears on short cut lawns on the coast in large numbers. The plants are small and can be quite difficult to spot but are widespread thoughout Europe although not in the North.

The specimens pictured above were found in early August at Sker Point, near Kenfig Nature Reserve in South Wales. We have also seen and photographed this orchid in The Burren in County Clare, Ireland.

Etymology

The genus name Spiranthes means 'spirally-arranged flowers'. The specific epithet spiralis again refers to the spiral arrangement of flowers up the stem.


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