Tipularia discolor (Pursh) Nutt.

Cranefly Orchid

Facts About

Accepted Synonyms: Plectrurus discolor, Tipularia unifolia

Tipularia discolor, commonly called Cranefly Orchid, is found throughout the eastern and central United States, from Florida to Massachusetts and west to Texas. It produces a single leaf in the fall which stays green throughout the winter with purple pigmentation on the underside. The leaf senesces in the spring before the plant flowers in the summer. Tipularia has spots on its leaves and nectar spurs on flowers which distinguishes this orchid from Aplectrum hyemale, which also has a wintergreen leaf. The somewhat asymmetrical flowers of this species are pollinated by noctuid moths. The protocorms are usually found on decomposing wood, suggesting that germination is stimulated by the substrates found in logs, tree stumps, and wood chips.

Globally, Tipularia discolor is apparently secure and is common in forests throughout the southeastern U.S. However, it is considered rare or endangered in several northern states.


This orchid is pollinated by Autographa precationis, Ctenoplusia oxygramma, Cucullia convexipennis, Protoboarmia porcelaria and Pseudaletia unipuncta. The moths visit the flowers and insert their proboscis into the nectar tube, if there is little nectar left the moth will force its proboscis in deeper and increasing the chance of their compound eye coming into contact with the viscidium and removing pollinaria. The stigma is not exposed until the anther cap falls off, which might serve as a barrier to self-pollination.

Ecosystem Type

Forests, woodlands


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:
  • blue to purple
  • green to brown
  • yellow
Nectar spur:
Inflorescence type:
the inflorescence is a raceme
Labellum characteristics:
  • the labellum has a spur
  • the labellum is lobed
Labellum length:
5–8 mm
Sepal length:
5–8 mm
Plant height:
10–65 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 Apparently Secure
US Status N/A
Canadian Status N/A

North America Distribution

Adapted from USDA data