Galearis spectabilis indiana.JPG

Showy Orchid

Galearis spectabilis (L.) Raf.

Family:     Orchidaceae (orchid family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     5-20 cm (2-8 in)

Blooming: April - June


Stem: erect, stout and hairless.


Flowers: loosely arranged cluster of short stalked flowers.  There are usually five to eight flowers on a spike with each having a leaf-like bract gently reaching past the soft pink and white flowers.  These flowers are sweetly fragrant.

Leaves: 2 large leaves on flowering plants.  Occasionally, the first year plants have only one leaf and are sterile saving enough energy for the big second year show.  The leaves are basal, lack teeth, and are a dull dark green color.  They can grow as large as 20 cm (8 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) wide. 

Fruit: severely erect, ellipsoid capsules.

Habitat: rich, mesic woodlands in decaying humus.



Bonap map - Galearis

Consortium of Midwest Herbaria - Galearis spectabilis

Michigan Flora - Galearis spectabilis

USDA Forest Service - Showy Orchid

Argue, C.L., 2011. The Pollination Biology of North American Orchids: Volume 1: North of Florida and Mexico (Vol. 1). Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 202.

Whigham, D.F., J.P. O’Neill, H.N. Rasmussen, B.A. Caldwell, and M.K. McCormick. 2006. Seed longevity in terrestrial orchids–potential for persistent in situ seed banks. Biological conservation, 129(1): 24-30.

Galearis spectabilis indiana.JPG

Comments: As with other orchids, the small seeds of the showy orchid have no extra food in reserve for the plant to emerge.  It needs a specialized fungus (probably Ceratobasidium for the showy orchid) which gives the seed enough nutrients to emerge in turn sharing the carbs that it collects when mature with the fungi. 

Showy orchid is not know within the dunes, but rather throughout the moraine system south of the Indiana dunes.

It is one of the earliest blooming orchids in Northwest Indiana.​  Without flowers it can easily be confused with the purple twayblade orchid (Liparis liliifolia).  The latter has super glossy leaves with a much sharper point.

Potential pollinators include numerous bumble bee queens of different species (Bombus spp.)

Etymology: The epithet, spectabilis, is Latin for "spectacular" or "showy" as the common name suggests. Galearis is Latin for "helmet" due to the hood like shape of the flower. 

Galearis spectabilis indiana.JPG

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Species Present and Native