Genus Spiranthes

Spiranthes L. C. Rich.,
Orchid. Eur. Annot. (1817) 28

Sympodial terrestrial plants. Stem arising from a cluster of very fleshy roots. Leaves few, in a basal rosette, sheathing at the base, glabrous, persistent, convolute, herbaceous. Inflorescence terminal, a many-flowered raceme. Flowers small, arranged in a dense spiral, resupinate, white or pink. Sepals free. Petals free, narrower than the sepals. Lip without spur, not mobile, at the base with two warts. Column-foot absent. Pollinia 2, mealy, caudicles present, stipe absent, viscidium present.

North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands, east to Samoa. About 30 species; one widespread species [Spiranthes sinensis (Pers.) Ames] in New Guinea.

Terrestrial in montane grassland.

The small flowers arranged in a dense spiral clearly characterise Spiranthes. Occasionally seen in cultivation, sometimes even as a weed in pots with other orchids.