Family, Orchis. Color, dull brownish purple. Sepals and petals small. Lip, white, smaller than the petals, 3-lobed. Spur, a small protuberance. Flowers, 3 to 12, in a raceme 1 to 3 inches long. Scape, 4 to 12 inches high, with no leaves, but a few sheathing scales near the base. The root branched and broken like a coral branch, gives the plant its name. May to July.
Parasitic on roots of other plants, or saprophytic, finding its nourishment on dead or decaying matter. In cool, shaded woods from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio northward. In mountains of Georgia.
C. odontorhiza. - Color, purplish. Sepals and petals, long and narrow, marked with purple lines. Lip, white, spotted with deep pink, broadly ovate, or obovate, not notched. Scape, purplish, 6 to 15 inches high. Flowers, in a raceme. Rootstock, toothed, coral-like. August and September.
In woods, Massachusetts to Michigan, south to Florida and Mississippi.
C. maculata. - Color of petals and sepals a brownish purple. Lip, white, spotted or lined with purple. A scape, 8 to 20 inches high, leafless, but, like the preceding, clothed with sheathing scales, bears many flowers, large for this genus, in a raceme 2 to 8 inches long. Flower, open, spreading; lip, broad and short. Root, much like the preceding. July and August.
From New England to Florida westward.
C. striata. - Color, dark purple. Sepals and petals, narrowly elliptical, showing 3 deeper purple lines. Lip, strongly purple-veined, broad, oval, concave. Scape, stout, leafless, 8 to 20 inches high, bearing a raceme of flowers at the tip. Bracts with each flower. May and June.
A rare and local species found in the latitude of northern New York to Oregon and California.
C. Wisterikna. - Color, purplish. Flower, open, with large, broad, white lip spotted with deep crimson. Flowers, pedicelled, in a raceme on a slender stem 8 to 16 inches high. Spur conspicuous. April and May.
Woods, Massachusetts to Florida, westward to Texas. The coral root orchids are among the least pretty of the Family, but are interesting, widely dispersed, and will repay study. The fruit capsules of all the species droop when ripe.