Spiranthes ovalis Lindl.

Lesser Ladies' Tresses, October Ladies' Tresses, Oval Ladies' Tresses

Facts About

Accepted Synonym: Ibidium ovalis

Spiranthes ovalis, commonly called Lesser Ladies' Tresses, is widely distributed across the central and eastern U.S. and Canada, from Texas to Ontario. It produces 2-5 basal or lower stem leaves which usually persist through flowering, and bears an inflorescence of up to 50 small, white flowers arranged in a tight spiral. The dorsal sepal is connivent with the lateral petals to form a hood over the column, and the edges of the labellum are slightly wavy. It can be distinguished from S. cernua by its smaller size and its preference for more forested habitats; the absence of a central green or yellow spot on the labellum distinguishes it from S. lacera. It grows in moist, shady woodlands and forests, in thickets, and occasionally along the edges of marshes.

S. ovalis is considered globally secure, although it is rare or vulnerable throughout much of its range.


Based on flower morphology, the typical variety of this orchid is thought to be pollinated by bees in the genus Bombus. Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata lacks a rostellum and is self-pollinating.

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties

There are two varieties of Spiranthes ovalis:
Spiranthes ovalis var. ovalis has a rostellum and viscidium, the flowers open fully, and it is distributed only around the Gulf Coast states.
Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata lacks a rostellum and viscidium, the flowers generally do not open fully, and it is more broadly distributed across the central and eastern United States.

Ecosystem Type

Forests, grassland, marshes, meadows, woodlands


Leaf arrangement:
  • basal
  • stem
Form of the labellum:
the labellum is not pouch-like
Labellum outline:
the labellum is simple
Main color of labellum:
Nectar spur:
Inflorescence type:
the inflorescence is a spike
Labellum characteristics:
the labellum is simple
Labellum length:
3–5 mm
Sepal length:
3.5–6 mm
Plant height:
5–40 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