Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt.

Adam and Eve, Putty Root

Facts About

Accepted synonyms: none

Aplectrum hyemale, commonly called Putty Root, is found across the eastern U.S. and Canada from Louisiana to Quebec. It produces a single leaf in the fall, which stays green throughout the winter. The plant flowers in the spring as the leaf senesces. It produces 7-15 small flowers with a white-purple labellum. A solid green leaf and flowers that lack nectar spurs distinguishes this orchid from Tipularia discolor, which also has a wintergreen leaf. It is generally found in small, scattered populations, often near sugar maples and beeches.
The common name "Putty Root" refers to the sticky substance produced by crushing underground corms.

It is considered globally secure but is rare throughout much of its range.


The flowers of this orchid appear to offer little reward to attract insect pollinators. They lack fragrance and do not produce nectar. Field experiments with caged plants that excluded insects confirm that this orchid is capable of autogamy- as the flower matures, the column bends and presses the pollen onto the stigma. However for pollination to be successful, the anther cap covering the pollen, must be removed or fall off to expose the pollen. Visiting insects, such as Lasioglossum oblongum, have been observed dislodging this cap as they explore the flower. In this way insects, such as bees and ants, may indirectly assist the pollination process even if they don't actually transfer the pollen onto the stigma.
Aplectrum hyemale is a clonal plant and this type of breeding system based on self-pollination is consistent with the limited genetic variability that has been observed in some populations of this orchid.

Ecosystem Type

Forests, swamps


Leaf arrangement:
Number of leaves on stem:
Form of the labellum:
the labellum is not pouch-like
Labellum outline:
the labellum is lobed
Main color of labellum:
  • white
  • yellow
Nectar spur:
Inflorescence type:
the inflorescence is a raceme
Labellum characteristics:
the labellum is lobed
Labellum length:
9–12 mm
Sepal length:
10–15 mm
Plant height:
18–60 cm
Show All Characteristics

Native to North America


North American Conservation Status & Distribution

Conservation Status

Select a location to view conservation status:

Conservation and Wetland Status
Global Rank Secure
US Status N/A
Canadian Status May Be At Risk

North America Distribution

Adapted from USDA data