Corallorhiza maculata

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Corallorhiza maculata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Maxillarieae
Subtribe: Corallorhizinae
Genus: Corallorhiza
Species: C. maculata
Binomial name
Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata, or spotted coralroot, is a North American coralroot orchid flower. Varieties are also known as western coralroot and summer coralroot. It is found from Mexico and Baja California, through California and most of the United States except the Southeast, and across Canada. It grows mostly in montane woodlands.


The Corallorhiza maculata side petals are reddish, and the lip petal is bright clean white with deep red spots.

This orchid is a myco-heterotroph; it lacks chlorophyll and gets food by parasitizing the mycelium of fungi in the family Russulaceae. The rhizome and lower stem are often knotted into branched coral shapes. The stem is usually red or brown in color, but occasionally comes in a light yellow or cream color. There are no leaves and no photosynthetic green tissues. The stalklike stems bear dark red scales and intricate orchid flowers.

The Corallorhiza maculata flowers are small and emerge regularly from all sides of the stem. The sepals are dark red or brown tinged with purple, long and pointed. The side petals are reddish, and the lip petal is bright clean white with deep red spots. It is usually lobed or toothed on the side and 7–10 mm. In some varieties, the lip is plain white without spots.


Several Native American groups historically used the orchid's stems dried and brewed as a tea for such maladies as colds, pneumonia, and skin irritation.

The Corallorhiza macluata is also the topic of the poem On Going Unnoticed by Robert Frost.


Further reading[edit]

  • Taylor, D.L. & T.D. Bruns. (1997). Independent, specialized invasions of ectomycorrhizal mutualism by two nonphotosynthetic orchids. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA vol. 94 pp. 4510-4515.

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