Native Missouri Orchids
think 'orchid', do you think tropical, hothouse, corsage flower?
Would it surprise you to learn that wild orchids grow in Missouri?
wild orchids, while not always resembling the common exotic
ideal of an orchid, actually outnumber the native species of
Hawaii. 35 different native species grow in Missouri while
Hawaii has only 3. Some are tiny like the crane-fly orchid with
its ½ inch blossom and some are extremely showy like the lady’s
More photos are available in the
temperate climate orchids are terrestrial orchids; they grow out
of the soil rather than on host plants like the tropicals. Here
in Missouri, our orchids grow in undisturbed areas in rocky
glades, ravines, and along creeks. Some even thrive on the
vanishing tall grass prairies. The orchids like woodland shade
and well-drained soil that stays moist all summer long. Many of
the most beautiful native orchids are found along rivers and
streams in the Ozarks. While orchids produce several million
seeds per plant, very few seeds will actually germinate because
ideal orchid habitat is rare. Once orchids are established,
they are very long-lived.
of Missouri’s native orchids are delicate, three species are
fairly hardy and maintain leaf growth all year long. Adam and
Eve orchids and cranefly orchids have a large leaf that emerges
in the fall, grows all winter long and withers in the spring.
Rattlesnake plantain orchids are evergreen. These three
varieties grow in woodlands; in winter they receive full sun
through leafless branches and in summer they are sheltered in
orchids may be persuaded to grow in your garden if you supply
all their complex requirements, but orchid habitat is very
complex. Never dig up flowers from the wild; it is illegal in
Missouri to dig up or remove any roadside plant from the
right-of-way of state or county highways or roadways. Be sure
to purchase orchids from reputable growers who have propagated
the plants from seed. Check with
Native (a joint program of the Missouri
Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of
Agriculture) for sources.
Missouri’s orchid species are on the rare and endangered
checklist, mainly due to habitat destruction. If you are lucky
enough to find orchids growing in the wild, admire them and
leave them alone for others to enjoy as well.
More information about Missouri's orchids is available in a
wonderful book published by the Missouri Department of
Conservaton: Missouri Orchids by Bill Summers.
Article by LNC
Volunteer Debby Barker
(Photo Credit: Large Yellow
Lady-slipper (Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens); Missouri
Department of Conservation)