Open the Advanced Search

Creeping Lady's Tresses

Goodyera repens

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Meadows, riversides, sand dunes, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 2 petals
A compact spiral flower spike consisting of 15 to 25 flowers. Very hairy, white flowers. Each white flower is 4mm across. Pollinated by bees.
The fruit is a many-seeded capsule. The seeds are extremely minute and dust-like in appearance.
A perennial orchid of Pine woodland. The leaves are pointed, oval and net-veined. Occasionally the leaves are marbled. There are two basal leaves and the stem has scale-like leaves. Untoothed. The stems are creeping, unlike those of Autumn Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis).
The flowers are very sweet smelling.
Other Names:
Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain, Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Lesser Rattlesnake Plantain.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Goodyera repens, commonly known as creeping lady's tresses or lesser butterfly orchid, is a species of orchid native to Europe and Asia. It is a terrestrial perennial herb, typically growing to 15cm tall, and it typically spreads by rhizomes forming dense colonies. The leaves are basal, glossy, elliptic to ovate, and typically reach 2-8 cm (0.8-3 inches) long. The inflorescence is a spike of small, white flowers, each with a hooded lip, and it typically blooms between July and September. The flowers are arranged in a spiral pattern along the stem, similar to the related species Spiranthes romanzoffiana. This species prefers light to moderate shade, and moist but well-drained soils. It is commonly found in woodlands, meadows, and along streams.


Creeping Lady's Tresses, also known as Goodyera repens, is a species of orchid native to North America. It is a perennial plant that grows in moist, shaded forests, and is commonly found in the eastern United States and Canada. The plant gets its name from the delicate, twisting, white flowers that resemble the braided tresses of a lady.

Appearance and Habitat

Creeping Lady's Tresses is a small, creeping plant that typically grows to be around 6 inches tall. Its leaves are dark green and glossy, and are arranged in a rosette at the base of the stem. The flowers are small and white, and are arranged in a spiral around the stem. They bloom in late summer and early fall, and are pollinated by bees and butterflies.

Creeping Lady's Tresses grows best in moist, well-drained soils in shaded areas, such as in the understory of forests or along streambanks. It is most commonly found in the eastern United States and Canada, but can also be found in some parts of the western United States.

Ecological Importance

Creeping Lady's Tresses is an important plant in the ecosystem, providing food and habitat for a variety of animals. The nectar produced by its flowers attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, which in turn help to fertilize other plants in the area. The plant also provides cover and nesting sites for small mammals and birds.

Conservation Status

Creeping Lady's Tresses is considered to be a relatively common plant, and is not currently listed as endangered or threatened. However, like many other orchids, it is at risk due to habitat loss and degradation. The plant is also sometimes harvested illegally for use in the horticultural trade, which can further threaten its survival in the wild.

Creeping Lady's Tresses is a beautiful and ecologically important plant that plays an important role in the forest ecosystems of North America. While it is not currently threatened, its survival depends on the preservation of its habitat and the conservation of other species in the ecosystem. By protecting this plant and its habitat, we can help to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy its delicate beauty and ecological benefits.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Like other orchids, Creeping Lady's Tresses has a unique reproductive strategy. The plant relies on specific fungi in the soil to provide it with the nutrients it needs to grow and reproduce. The fungus forms a symbiotic relationship with the orchid's roots, and in return for providing nutrients, the orchid provides the fungus with carbohydrates.

Creeping Lady's Tresses typically reproduces through seed production, which occurs after pollination by bees and butterflies. The plant produces a large number of small, dust-like seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

Cultural Significance

Creeping Lady's Tresses has been used for various medicinal purposes by indigenous people in North America. It was used to treat conditions such as respiratory problems, digestive issues, and skin ailments. Additionally, some tribes used the plant in spiritual ceremonies and believed that it had protective and healing powers.

In modern times, Creeping Lady's Tresses is sometimes used in the horticultural trade as an ornamental plant. However, because it is a slow-growing plant that is difficult to cultivate, it is not commonly found in nurseries or gardens.

Final Thoughts

Creeping Lady's Tresses is a unique and important plant that has a fascinating life cycle and plays an important role in the ecosystem. While it is not currently threatened, it is important to protect and conserve its habitat to ensure that it continues to thrive in the wild. Additionally, it is important to respect the cultural significance of this plant and to avoid harvesting it illegally for commercial or personal use. Overall, Creeping Lady's Tresses is a valuable part of North America's natural heritage, and it is a plant worth celebrating and protecting.

Facts about Creeping Lady's Tresses

Here are some additional facts about Creeping Lady's Tresses:

  1. Creeping Lady's Tresses is a member of the Orchidaceae family, which is one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world, with over 25,000 species.

  2. The scientific name for Creeping Lady's Tresses, Goodyera repens, is named after John Goodyer, an English botanist who lived in the 17th century.

  3. In addition to its beautiful flowers, Creeping Lady's Tresses is known for its distinctive, twisting stems that resemble corkscrews.

  4. The plant is often used as an indicator species for healthy forest ecosystems. Because it requires specific soil conditions and a shaded environment to thrive, its presence can indicate that the forest is healthy and well-preserved.

  5. Creeping Lady's Tresses is a long-lived plant, with some individuals living for up to 50 years.

  6. While Creeping Lady's Tresses is primarily found in forested areas, it can also be found in some open habitats such as meadows and bogs.

  7. The plant has been used in traditional medicine by indigenous cultures in North America for centuries. Some tribes used the plant to treat conditions such as coughs, colds, and fevers, while others used it to treat skin conditions and wounds.

  8. Creeping Lady's Tresses is often propagated through tissue culture, which involves growing the plant from a small piece of tissue in a laboratory setting. This is one way that the plant is cultivated for use in the horticultural trade.

  9. In some areas, Creeping Lady's Tresses is considered a threatened or endangered species due to habitat loss and degradation.

  10. Creeping Lady's Tresses is a fascinating and beautiful plant that plays an important role in the ecosystem. By learning more about this species and taking steps to protect it, we can help to ensure that it continues to thrive in the wild for years to come.


Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map