Galearis spectabilis
(L.) Raf.
[Orchis spectabilis]
Showy Orchis

Location New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.
Specific Habitat

Rich, relatively open deciduous or mixed mature or semi-mature forests, occasionally in hemlock groves, or under beech trees.. Sugar maple is almost always the dominant tree, accompanied by a variety of other species. It is found growing in thick layers of decaying humus, often in association with white trilliums, hepaticas, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, and Canada violet. It appears to be confined to the portion of southern Canada that lies outside the Canadian shield. Trampling by cattle and forest "management" by man have been responsible for loss of previously noted orchid colonies.

Flowering Season

One of the first orchids to bloom in eastern North America (mid-May to early June), before the leaves are fully leafed out. It usually grows alone, or in small clusters, occasionally in larger colonies.


Height to 20 cm.
Two leaves, basal, dark green, bases folded into distinct peduncles sheathing the stem. Occasional floral bract, leaf-like, lanceolate.
Raceme loose, terminal, up to 15 flowers.
Sepals and petals mauve to pink and joined to form a hood; lip ten to twenty millimeters in length, white and spade-shaped; spur slender, tubular, about as long as the lip.


Colonies can persist and multiply for decades if the site does not become heavily shaded or overgrown with vegetation. Special feature is the spade-shaped lip and mauve colouring of all floral parts except the lip which is white.
In a rare form, gordinieri (House), the hood or galea is white (Catling, 1982b).


The Canadian Field-Naturalist Vol III - 1
The Orchids of Bruce & Grey


© Royal Botanical Gardens, Dr. Donald Gunn Image Collection.