Stem. - Leafy below, leafy-bracted above, six to twenty inches high. Leaves. - Linear-lance-shaped, the lowest elongated. Flowers. - White, fragrant, the lips wavy or crisped; growing in slender spikes.
This pretty little orchid is found in great abundance in September and October. The botany relegates it to "wet places," but I have seen dry upland pastures as well as low-lying swamps profusely flecked with its slender, fragrant spikes. The braided appearance of these spikes would easily account for the popular name of ladies' tresses; but we learn that the plant's English name was formerly "ladies' traces" from a fancied resemblance between its twisted clusters and the lacings which played so important a part in the feminine toilet. I am told that in parts of New England the country people have christened the plant "wild hyacinth."
The flowers of S. gracilis are very small, and grow in a much more slender, one-sided spike than those of S. cernua. They are found in the dry woods and along the sandy hill sides from July onward.
Plate XXXIII. Ladies' Tresses. - S.cernua