Bletia spicata (Walter) Sosa & M.W. Chase

Crested Coral Root

Facts About

Accepted Synonyms: Arethusa spicata, Hexalectris Spi

Bletia spicata, commonly called Crested Coral Root, has the widest distribution of any species in its genus, growing in the southern and central U.S. from New Mexico to Maryland. This orchid is myco-heterotrophic and obtains nutrients not from photosynthesis but through mycorrhizal fungi. It has a leafless, yellowish or pinkish brown stem and produces up to 25 small, yellow-brown or purplish flowers, the petals and sepals often strongly veined with brown or purple. The labellum is tan or purple white, usually 3-lobed and with undulate margins. It is found in a wide variety of habitats, from swamps to desert canyons in the southwest; typically, it grows in mesic to dry soil in forests and over sandstone or limestone.

Bletia spicata is considered globally secure, although it is rare or endangered throughout much of its range in the US. In the southwest, much of this orchid's habitat is under threat from mining.


The large purple and tan flowers are not adapted for self-pollination and must attract a pollinator, possibly a bumble bee, to produce seeds.

Ecosystem Type

Forests, woodlands


Leaf arrangement:
this plant has no leaves
Form of the labellum:
the labellum is not pouch-like
Labellum outline:
the labellum is lobed
Main color of labellum:
  • blue to purple
  • white
  • yellow
Nectar spur:
Inflorescence type:
the inflorescence is a raceme
Labellum characteristics:
the labellum is lobed
Labellum length:
Up to 20 mm
Sepal length:
14–24 mm
Plant height:
20–80 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 N/A

North America Distribution

Adapted from USDA data