The orchid is native to the western United States (California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho), and to British Columbia, Canada. Cephalanthera austiniae is the only species of genus Cephalanthera native to the Western Hemisphere.
Cephalanthera austiniae is a distinctive plant, rising from the dark, moist forest floor on waxy white stems and bearing orchid blossoms which are white or yellowish with yellow centers. Its leaves, if present, are rudimentary since such structures are not needed for collecting sunlight.
The plant is becoming more scarce as its habitat—dense, isolated forest—becomes more rare.