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Photo: Galearis spectabilis

Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf.

Showy Orchis

Habitat: Rich, mostly calcareous woods. [Hardwood to mixed forest (forest, upland)].

Range: New Brunswick to Ontario, Dakota, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Nebraska.

Aids to Identification: The showy orchis has two basal leaves, oval in shape, around 15 cm long and 7 cm wide, and shining dark green in color. The flower stalk rises about 15 cm above the ground, and bears several flowers about 2-3 cm in length. The flowers have rose-purple petals and a white lip (the modified lower petal).

Photo: Galearis spectabilis

Ecological characteristics: Found in scattered rich wooded areas, usually in woods of calcareous, or limy, nature. Often grows in clusters of several plants, but the clumps may be widely scattered and inconspicuous due to surrounding vegetation.

Phenology: In Maine, flowers in early June.

Family: Orchidaceae

Synonyms: Formerly known as Orchis spectabilis L.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 13 town(s) in the following county(ies): Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford, Somerset.

Dates of documented observations are: 1885, 1893, 1896, 1906, 1907, 1915 (3), 1916, 1928, 1941 (3), 1974, 1996, 1998 (2)

Reason(s) for rarity: In part, scarcity of calcareous woods habitat.

Conservation considerations: Orchids are popular among some speciality gardeners, and populations of this species are vulnerable to unscrupulous or uneducated collectors. Plants dug from the wild usually do not survive; more importantly, removing these plants harms the natural population and may cause its eventual disappearance. Not known to have been successfully propagated, so any plants offered for sale have almost certainly been dug from the wild. The effects of logging are unknown, but partial removal of the canopy would be less likely to adversely affect the plant than complete removal.