Spiranthes lucida (H. H. Eaton) Ames

Wide-leaved ladies'-tresses, shining ladies'-tresses

The specific epithet lucida is the Latin meaning "shining," and refers to the glossy leaves of this species.

DESCRIPTION: Plant essentially glabrous, 8-25 cm tall (including inflorescence), arising from a cluster of fleshy roots. Leaves 3-4, basal, elliptical to lanceolate, 3-10 cm long and 0.5-1.5 cm wide, light green and glossy. Inflorescence a glabrous or sparsely downy, spicate raceme of 10-20 tiny white flowers, typically 2-3 ranked, 8-25 cm tall, each flower subtended by an elongate, ovate-lanceolate bract. Sepals linear-oblong, 3-5 mm long and about 2 mm wide, the lateral sepals appressed and with margins inrolled, dorsal sepal connivent with petals to form a hood over the column and labellum, sepals snowy white. Petals linear, 4-5 mm long and about 1 mm wide, colored as the sepals and closely appressed to the sepals, tips of sepals and petals reflexed slightly. Labellum oblong, 3-5 mm long and 2-3 mm wide, white and crystalline in texture, with a bright yellow center that does not quite extend to the apex, the margins inrolled, the apex slightly bent downwards, margin erose, the base of the labellum with two small calli.

If Spiranthes lucida were to be found in Wisconsin, it is unlikely that it could be confused with any other species of Spiranthes. The bright yellow spot on the labellum and the wide, shiny leaves are distinctive.

Usually found in saturated, calcareous, usually gravelly or sandy soils. Typical habitats include stream and river banks or floodplain terraces, fens, and old quarries or gravel pits.

In nearby states, Spiranthes lucida blooms from late May to early July. It is the earliest blooming of the eastern North American species of Spiranthes.

Catling (1983b) observed halictid bees pollinating Spiranthes lucida in Ontario. S. lucida is unique among North American Spiranthes in placing its pollinia on the "chin" of its pollinators, which approach the flowers upside-down .

DISCUSSION: Spiranthes lucida is not confirmed to exist in Wisconsin. According to Fuller (1933), S. lucida has been listed for Milwaukee County, but a confirming herbarium record has never been found. However, S. lucida is found in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa, not far from suitable habitat in Wisconsin. About 15 years ago, Don Henson collected S. lucida on the Michigan side of the Menominee River, placing lucida within meters of Wisconsin. This species should be diligently searched for in fens and along stream and river banks, particularly those flowing through areas of calcareous substrate.

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