Spiranthes sylvatica P.M. Brown

Locations ofSpiranthes sylvatica P.M. Brown in Virginia

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Botanical Name
Spiranthes sylvatica P.M. Brown
Common Name
Woodland Ladies'-tresses, Pale Green Ladies'-tresses
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Spiranthes sylvatica P.M. Brown
A recently described species closely related to Spiranthes praecox. See P.M. Brown (2001), Recent taxonomic and distributional notes from Florida 11. Spiranthes sylvatica P.M. Brown, a new species of ladies'-tresses from the southeastern United States. North American Native Orchid Journal 7: 193-205.

Brown reported this species based on five 1935 Fernald collections at Gray Herbarium (all originally identified as Spiranthes praecox) from various habitats in Virginia Beach City. However, re-examination of these and other herbarium specimens of S. praecox indicate that only two Fernald specimens from Little Neck and a 1995 specimen from City of Chesapeake match the putative characters of S. sylvatica.

The validity of this species has been questioned by some taxonomists. It is reportedly distinguished from S. praecox by having larger flowers in tightly spiraled inflorescences, as well as a drier woodland habitat preference. However, the differences, both morphological and ecological, appear to be clinal, with many populations exhibiting intermediate characters (M. Pace, pers. comm. to Z. Bradford). In addition, recent molecular work shows no clear differentiation between even “classic” individuals of S. sylvatica and S. praecox. In short, S. sylvatica may represent an ecotype of S. praecox adapted to shaded, upland forest habitats (M. Pace, pers. comm. to Z. Bradford).

We are continuing to recognize this species primarily to draw attention to it, generate more information, and promote future study.
Virginia specimens are from dry but relatively “rich” (for the Coastal Plain) forests. Documented historically from the City of Virginia Beach, more recently from the City of Chesapeake, and reaching its known northern limits here. Due to its recent circumscription and similarity to Spiranthes praecox, little is known about this species in our area. Given its reported preference for upland forest and forest edge habitats elsewhere, it could be more widely distributed in the se. VA Coastal Plain than the few historical collections indicate.
Native Status

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