Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Torr.

Adam and Eve, putty root

Aplectrum is a monotypic genus, although an extremely similar species (again in a monotypic genus), Oreorchis patens Lindley, is found in Japan and far eastern Asia. The name is derived from the Greek term meaning "spurless," apparently to distinguish it from Tipularia, which has a similar wintergreen leaf but has spurred flowers. The specific epithet hyemale is the Latin meaning "winter," in reference to the wintergreen leaf of this species.

DESCRIPTION: Plant arising from a globular tuber, the remains of the previous year's tuber persisting. Leaf solitary, plicate, bluish-green above with white veins, purplish green below; leaf emerging in late fall and persisting through winter, usually senescing just before flowering. Inflorescence a spike of 6 to 10 flowers, 13-24 cm high. Sepals oblanceolate, 10-14 mm long to 2-4 mm wide, madder-purple near the tips, green to greenish-yellow near the base. Petals similar in size and appearance to the sepals. Labellum 3-lobed, obovate, 10-12 mm long and 5-9 mm wide; white with a suffusion of madder-purple near the margins, middle of the labellum with several fleshy ridges.

I can think of no other plant in the Wisconsin flora that can be confused with Aplectrum.

Aplectrum is typically found in moist, rich deciduous woods; however, it has been collected in Wisconsin in coniferous or mixed deciduous-coniferous woods.

May 25 to July 1, flowering later in the northern part of the state.

According to Hogan (1983), the plants are autogamous. Consequently, there is nearly always very high seed set.

DISCUSSION: The distinctive nature of the leaves of Aplectrum and their presence during the autumn and winter means that the plant is best searched for in the autumn and winter, particularly when there is a light coating of snow on the ground. The plants typically grow in small colonies, with only a few plants flowering in a season.

The name "putty root" comes from the mucilaginous fluid which can be removed from the tubers when they are crushed. According to Correll (1950), the fluid removed from the roots was used by early American settlers to repair broken pottery, and by Native Americans for medicinal purposes.

Hibernal (winter) Leaf

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