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nodding ladies’ tresses

nodding ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes cernua)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Features and Behaviors

Nodding ladies’ tresses is a perennial herb. Its leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, and basal leaves are also present. Each simple leaf is entire and linear. White flowers are borne in a long spike. The six-parted flowers curve downward and are arranged in a double spiral. The fruit is a capsule. Nodding ladies’ tresses may attain a height of six to 18 inches.

Nodding ladies’ tresses may be found statewide in Illinois. It grows in upland forests, thickets, sand prairies, wetlands and fields. Flowers are produced from August through October. Pollination is carried out by bees, while the seeds are dispersed by wind. Fire is beneficial to the sand prairie form.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Orchidales
Family: Orchidaceae

Illinois Status: common, native