Autumn lady’s tresses Spiranthes spiralis
Autumn lady’s tresses orchids like chalky soils. They are named for the beautiful way the flowers extend down the stem in a twisted fashion, like a hair braid. Locally frequent, if it is happy it will grow in abundance. Plantlife quotes a suburban lawn with 3000 flower spikes! In my area of Seaford in Sussex, local colonies are monitored by Seaford Natural History Society.
Identifying Autumn lady’s tresses
These small flower spikes grow in short grass are quite hard to spot. The ones I saw in late August were only 10 to 15cm high. Being small white flowers, I noticed they tend to blend in with other flowers in the grass. Unlike the Common twayblade which likes a similar habitat, the leaves are barely through while in flower. So that’s one less thing to help find them! The leaves I saw were coming up next to the flower rather than surrounding the flower stem.
Once you’ve found a flower spike, they are quite distinctive. The ones I saw were so downy that they appeared silver grey in colour. I thought that the individual flowers resembled tiny white daffodils, each only about 5mm across.
Find out more about Lady’s tresses – Spiranthes
2021 was a particularly good year for orchids in my neck of the woods!
More about Orchids in general
I haven’t yet come across Irish lady’s tresses, Spiranthes romanzoffiana, but perhaps will do on my travels sometime!