showy orchis

(Galearis spectabilis)

Conservation Status
showy orchis
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Showy orchis is a 3 to 10 tall perennial orchid. It rises on a pair of basal leaves and single stem from an underground tuber atop a cluster of 2 to 8 thick, fleshy roots. The tuber is slender, 1½ to 4 long, and vertically oriented. The roots are up to 6 long and spread out horizontally.

In its first year the plant produces a single aboveground leaf and a new underground tuber and roots. The leaves die back in October or November. In subsequent years two leaves are produced. After four to six years it produces a single flowering stem.

The leaves are dark green, shiny, thick, somewhat succulent, and parallel-veined. The blades are broadly elliptic or inversely egg-shaped to nearly circular, 3½ to 8 long, and ¾ to 4 wide. The lower leaf is rounded at the tip. The upper leaf is narrower and more pointed at the tip. Both are gradually tapered at the base and wrap around (sheath) the stalk. The upper and lower surfaces are hairless. The margins are untoothed.

The flowering stem is green, hairless, leafless, erect, unbranched, and 3 to 10 long.

The inflorescence is a showy, unbranched cluster (raceme) of 2 to 10 flowers at the end of the stem. Each flower is subtended by a single modified leaf (bract). The bract is leaf-like, lance-shaped to elliptic, to 3 long, and 3 16to ¾ wide.

Each flower is ¾ to 1 long and is upside down due to the twisting of the flower stalk. There are 3 sepals, 3 petals, 1 stamen, no staminodes, and 1 style. The filament of the stamen is fused to the style forming a column. The sepals are pinkish-purple, rarely white, egg-shaped to elliptic, to ¾ long, and to ¼ wide. The lateral two sepals curve upward and overlap the “upper” sepal forming a hood over the column. The lateral petals are pinkish purple, linear, and to long. They arch over and overlap the sepals becoming part of the hood overlapping the column. The “lower” petal (lip) is white, rarely tinged pink, egg-shaped, to 11 16 long, and ¼ to wide. It hangs downward, is constricted at the base, and has wavy margins. The base of the petal is modified into a narrow, club-shaped, to ¾ long spur.

The fruit is an erect, ellipse-shaped, strongly ribbed, to 1 long capsule with numerous tiny seeds.




3 to 10


Flower Color


Pinkish-purple and white


Similar Species

  Roundleaf orchis (Galearis rotundifolia) has only one basal leaf. The lip of the flower is less than long, has conspicuous purple spots, and has three lobes, the terminal one notched.  

Moist. Mature deciduous woodlands. Deep shade. Rich soil.




May 11 to June 10

Showy orchis is the first orchid to bloom in the spring in Minnesota.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 25, 28.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  


Asparagales (agaves, orchids, irises, and allies)  


Orchidaceae (orchids)  
  Subfamily Orchidoideae  
  Tribe Orchideae  





Galeorchis spectabilis

Orchis spectabilis


Common Names


showy orchid

showy orchis











Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



The united filaments and style of an orchid. The structure formed by the united filaments of plants in the Mallow family.



On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



The lower part of the leaf that surrounds the stem.



On flowers: a hollow tubular appendage, often containing nectar, formed from a sepal or petal. On branches: a short shoot bearing leaves or flowers and fruit.



A modified stamen that produces no pollen. It often has no anther. Plural: staminodia.



An underground root (as with dahlias) or stem (as with potatoes), thickened by the accumulation of reserved food (usually starch), which serves for food storage and vegetative propagation.

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Chris Coopman
  showy orchis    Photos


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  Orchis spectabilis (Showy Orchis)
Allen Chartier
  Orchis spectabilis (Showy Orchis)  
  Galearis spectabilis
Joshua Mayer
  Galearis spectabilis  

Showy Orchis

  Plant portrait - Showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis)
Identify that Plant

Published on May 1, 2014

A detailed look at the life cycle of Showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis). These images can help to accurately identify the plant during different seasons of the year.




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Galearis spectabilis (Showy Orchis)

Published on Apr 26, 2012

Galearis spectabilis (Showy Orchis)

  Showy Orchid

Published on May 4, 2014

This is a short video of a showy orchid found in the woods near my home in Franklin County, Virginia.




Visitor Sightings

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Sarah Zeng

Location: Sakatah Lake State Park

Kathy and Douglas Wood
1994 to present

Location: Stearns County, Brockway Township, Pine Point Road, Sartell MN

these lovely plants grow in our red pine woods.

Chris Coopman

Location: south of Mankato, MN

showy orchis


Location: Normandale Lake trail, Bloomington, MN





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