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October Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata)

Life history

Species overview

October Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in open bur oak-shagbark hickory forests on dolomite. Blooming occurs throughout September; fruiting occurs early October. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout September.

Synonyms: None


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Dense inflorescence, the flowers in 3 or 4 vertical files; lacking a viscidium and rostellum.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers 2 to 3 cm, terminal, spirally twisted, arranged in 3 or 4 vertical ranks, individually widely spreading or somewhat deflexed, cylindric, white or the lip creamy at the middle; sepal and lateral petals 3.5 to 5 mm, the petal usually widest in the distal third and with one vein; lip 4 to 5 mm, ovate-oblong, rounded distally, often somewhat constricted near the middle.
  • Fruit characteristics:
  • Leaf characteristics: Basall, 2 or 3, to 12 cm long and 5 to 15 mm wide; cauline sheaths bract-like, 3 to 4,, the lower with divergent recurved blade, 2 to 5 cm.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout September
  • Fruiting phenology: early October
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is throughout September


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Carex pensylvanica, Anemone virginiana, Fragaria virginiana, Galium triflorum, Aster sagittifolius, Maianthemum canadense, Osmorhiza claytonii.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for October Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5?T4?
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in open bur oak-shagbark hickory forests on dolomite.
  • Soils: In Wisconsin: thin, rocky soil with exposed limestone and chert. Elsewhere: moist, sandy, clayey loam soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with October Lady's-tresses. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for October Lady's-tresses. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Southwest Savanna 2
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Maintain low canopy cover areas for savanna and barrens plant species.


October Lady's-tresses Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

October Lady's-tresses Photo.

Photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR.

October Lady's-tresses Photo.

Photo © Dan Carter.

October Lady's-tresses Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

October Lady's-tresses Photo.

Photo © Marcie O'Connor.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition