Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf.

Showy orchis

The generic name Galearis is derived from the Greek galea which means "helmet" and refers to the helmet-like appearance of the connivent sepals and petals. The genus contains 11 species in a classic Arcto-Tertiary disjunct pattern: 10 are found in East Asia, with Galearis spectabilis found in the southeastern United States. The specific epithet spectabilis is the Latin meaning "showy" or "remarkable," in reference to the beautiful flowers.

DESCRIPTION: Plant arising from a cluster of fleshy, thickened roots, 8-20 cm high (including inflorescence). Leaves 2 (sterile plants usually have only one leaf), basal, obovate to elliptical, 8-18 cm long and 2-8 cm wide. Inflorescence a loose or dense raceme, 2-10 flowered; flowers subtended by conspicuous lanceolate, acuminate bracts, 1.5-4 cm long, the lower bracts longer and typically greatly exceeding the length of the ovary and pedicel. Sepals elliptic to ovate-lanceolate, 1-2 cm long and 5-6 mm wide, purple (rarely white); sepals connivent with petals to form a hood over the column, opposite the labellum. Petals lance-linear, 1-2 cm long and 2-5 mm wide, closely appressed to the sepals and colored as the sepals. Labellum ovate, the margins typically wavy, white (or rarely purple), 1-2 cm long and 7-12 mm wide; labellum with a 10-18 mm clubbed nectar spur projecting behind from the base.

SIMILAR SPECIES: It is unlikely that Galearis could be confused with any other plant in the Wisconsin flora.

HABITAT: Typically found in moist, rich deciduous forests. Galearis is almost always found in areas of light disturbance. I have frequently found it along trails, on flood terraces of small streams, or on steep slopes. All of these microsites are subject to intermittent disturbance; apparently this minimal disturbance is necessary to create the proper habitat for the establishment of Galearis. Studies in the Great Smoky Mountains have shown that Galearis is particularly prevalent along trails (Bratton ????)

FLOWERING DATES: May 10-June 10.

POLLINATION: Galearis flowers in early spring, when one of the most common pollinators is the bumblebee. Bumblebees visit the flowers for the nectar reward stored in the spur, and during their visit the pollinia become attached to the frons of the bee (Robertson 1928, Dieringer 1982).

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