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showy orchid (Galearis spectabilis)




















showy galearis
showy orchis
showy orchid
gay orchis
purple orchis
purple-hooded orchis


Galearis biflora Raf.
Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf.
Galearis spectabilis f. albiflora (Ulke) C. F. Reed
Galearis spectabilis f. gordinieri (House) R. E. Whiting & Catling
Galearis spectabilis f. willeyi (F. Seym.) P. M. Br.
Galeorchis spectabilis f. gordinieri House
Habenaria spectabilis (L.) Spreng.
Orchis humilis Michx.
Orchis spectabilis L.
Orchis spectabilis f. albiflora Ulke
Orchis spectabilis f. willeyi F. Seym.




TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for showy orchid
is Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf. Showy orchis was maintained in the gen-

us Orchis by most taxonomists until recently. Some now include this spe-

cies in Genus Galearis as originally proposed by Rafinesque in 1836. Two
species are known from this genus, only one of which (Galearis spectabilis)
occurs in North America, the other occurring in eastern Asia.


NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.




Habit: Showy orchid is a perennial herb, 4 inches to 8 inches tall with

stout stems arising from a arising from a short, tuberless rhizome (under-

ground stem) and a cluster of fleshy, thickened roots. The flowering stem

is single, erect, green, four- to five-angled, hairless, leafless above base.

This leafless structure terminated by flowers is called a scape and techni-

cally is not a true stem.


Leaves: Showy orchid has two leaves (often only one in sterile individuals),

which are basal, spreading, very short-stalked to sheathing/clasping. The

leaves are dull deep green with more pale midrib, non-toothed, hairless,

fleshy, 3 to 8 inches long, up to 3½ inches wide. Leaves are inversely egg-

shaped to oblong or elliptic, often nearly orbicular, broadest at or above

middle with narrowed base and a wide, blunt tip.


Flowers: The inflorescence is a single, erect, terminal, stalked, compact,

spike-like cluster of five to eight short-stalked flowers. Each flower is sub-

tended by a conspicuous, leaf-like, 1.5 - 8 cm long, 0.5 - 1.5 cm wide,

lance-shaped, pointed-tipped bract, the lower bracts longer and typically

greatly exceeding the length of the ovary and pedicel. The flowers are

short-stalked, delicately fragrant, bicolored pink and white/lavender, 1

inch long. They are bilaterally symmetric with sepals and upper petals

forming hood over prominent lip petal, which has base modified into a

club-shaped nectar spur. The reproductive parts of stamens, stigma and

style are fused into a column above the 1 - 2 cm long inferior ovary. There

are three sepals, petal-like, pink to pale purple, 1 - 1.5 cm long, 0.5 - 0.6

cm wide, egg- to lance-shaped or elliptic, forward curving and converging

(but not fused) with two lateral petals to form a hood over the column and

lip. There are three petals, with the lowest modified into white (rarely pink),

egg-shaped, 1 - 1.8 cm long, 0.6 - 1.5 cm wide, fairly wavy-edged lip with

base extending backwards into a 0.9 - 2 cm long, club-shaped, blunt spur.

The lateral petals are pink or pale purple, 1 - 1.3 cm long, about 2 mm

wide, linear, and they converge with the sepals in forming a hood over the

column and above the lip.


Fruit/Seeds: The fruit is several, short-stalked, erect, stout, oblong or ellip-

soid capsules with three raised length-wise angles, and subtended by with-

ered bracts.


Roots: The flower stem rises from a cluster of long fleshy roots.


REGENERATION PROCESS: Showy orchid propogates itself by re-
seeding. The showy orchid reproduced through pollination in early spring.
The orchid will flower and the bumblebee is its most common pollinator.
The bumblebees will visit the orchid for their own nectar reward while
pollen will become attached to the frons of the bee, or the upper portion

of their heads.


HABITAT TYPES: This species is found primarily in rich deciduous
woods, although vigorous woodland colonies are known to spread to

more open habitat and drier areas of mesic flatwoods and floodplain

forests. Showy orchis often occurs near temporary spring ponds in sandy

clay or rich loam soils, or in the shadier and richer microhabitats along-

side such common spring ephemerals as spring beauty (Claytonia virgin-

ica), largeflowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), and hepatica (Hepa-

tica spp.) Showy orchid is almost always found in areas of light disturb-



SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Showy orchid prefers partial shade, but
typically not tolerant of dense shade, with moderate soil moisture in rich,
sometimes limy soil, usually in decidious, rocky woodlands. It strongly
prefers non-disturbed sites.


SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Showy orchid generally flowers from
mid-May to June and apparently does not tolerate much competition. In
some areas it is locally abundant, but more commonly it grows as isolated
plants or in small colonies.


GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Showy orchid is naturally found in the
eastern United States, found from Georgia to Maine and into New
Brunswick, Canada (it has not been recorded from the other Canadian
Maritime Provinces. While it does not naturally occurs along most of
the Gulf Coast states, it is found as far west as Ohio Valley and into the

central Mid-western states (Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska), north to

Minnesota and into Ontario. It is also found in Quebec province. Showy
orchid is not naturally found in the southwestern states, Rocky Mountain
states and provinces, or the far western or northwestern states and


SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: Until Spring 2013, showy orchid
had not been confirmed as occurring in Sky Meadows State Park (it had
been observed in Thompson Widelife Management Area). However, several
specimens were observed on the Snowden "Loop" Trail in April and May
2013; it is feasible that showy orchid may be more numerous in Sky
Meadows than originally thought.


IMPORTANCE AND USES: Showy orchid 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. Showy orchid is
also pollinated by hummingbirds whose tongues are long enough to feed
on the nectar found in the long tubes of the flower, called spurs. Insects
with long mouthparts, such as butterflies and moths, may also act as pol-



Showy orchid is valued as an ornamental and is sold commercially.



Back to Inventory of Herb/Forb Families and Species

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