Spiranthes cernua is a perennial C3 monocotyledon herb (Pascal-Antoine 2008), 10-40 cm, from tuberous roots 2-8 cm long.
Leaves basal, to 30 cm long, 0.5-5 cm wide, pale green.
Flowers white, 0.7-1.0 cm long, somewhat nodding, slightly vanilla-scented, irregular, 2 lateral sepals not fused appearing 3-4 ranked, each flower above a linear bract that cups developing ovary, ovary inferior, green; inflorescence a tightly spiraled spike 2-18 cm, on glandular-hairy axis, linear bracts 3-8, sometimes with only a sheath.
Fruit a capsule with numerous, minute seeds, wind dispersed, requiring symbiosis with a fungus to grow (like all Orchids); blooms Aug.-Oct.
Wetland status: FACW.
Frequency in NYC: Very infrequent.
Habitat: Moist to wet open, sandy soil in somewhat disturbed areas. Like all orchids Spiranthes cernua cannot be transplanted as it is dependent on specific soil fungi. Spiranthes cernua is listed as Exploitably Vulnerable in NYC and is also a Federally listed plant.