Scented Ladies' Tresses,  Spiranthes odorata

Scented Ladies' tresses orchids are native to marshes, bogs, swamps, and other wet areas in the eastern United States from New Jersey and Tennessee south to Florida and Texas.  It features small, very fragrant, hooded, white flowers densely arranged in vertical, spiral-like rows on spikes typically growing 9-18" (less frequently to 24") tall. Blooms in fall here in Kinston. 

I first found the plants by following the lovely scent! They tend to grow in or near areas of the wetlands beyond the reach of the herbicides used by the city. 

The plants that I propagate were rescued from the ROW/wetland area on our property and reproduce vegetatively. Plants cared for in my nursery are generally more robust than the same plants in the wetlands. Flowering portions of the spikes of 8" are typical in the wetlands while some in pots were 14" or greater. 

Last year the wetlands were completely dry (for about 14 months). The plants that grew were stunted but survived! I also use my propagated plants to start new populations in suitable locations on our property and nearby. 

Photos by K. Mulcahy

Sources:,, other authoritative resources and personal experience.