Spiranthes bightensis M.C. Pace

Locations ofSpiranthes bightensis M.C. Pace in Virginia

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Botanical Name
Spiranthes bightensis M.C. Pace
Common Name
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Not in Flora of Virginia; named and described after its publication.
Recently described by Pace (in Phytotaxa 498(3): 159-176, 2021), this cryptic species is believed to be an ancient, stabilized hybrid between Spiranthes cernua and S. odorata. Physically, it appears largely intermediate between its two putative parents. It differs from S. cernua by its stoloniferous habit (vs. non-stoloniferous), generally longer and wider leaves (15-21.4 cm x 1.4-1.7 cm vs. 8.7-20 cm x 0.4-1.1 cm in S. cernua), and fragrant flowers (vs. non-fragrant). Conversely, S. bightensis has generally shorter and narrower leaves than S. odorata (15.0-21.4 cm x 1.4.-1.7 cm vs. 13-51.7 cm x 1.8-2.7 cm) and centrally white labellum (vs. centrally pale-yellow in S. odorata). Spiranthes bightensis inhabits freshwater to slightly brackish graminoid-dominated wet meadows, interdune swales, and impoundment margins in the narrow maritime zone between Long Island, New York, and the Delmarva Peninsula, reaching its southernmost known limits in Accomack and Middlesex counties, VA. This range is sympatric with S. cernua but not with S. odorata which occurs directly to the south in virtually identical habitats. In sum, S. bightensis resembles a slightly smaller-statured S. odorata with pure white flowers growing in wet, open maritime habitats.
Known in Virginia from two Accomack County records: a 1991 collection (Zebryk s.n. at GA) from the seepy margins of an old millpond and a more recent photo record from an impoundment at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Also recently documented from a boggy, open seepage slope bordering tidal wetlands of the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County. This species should be sought in similar habitats along both the ocean and bay sides of Virginia's Eastern Shore and the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
Native Status

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