The spotted coral-root orchid (Corallorhiza maculata) is named for its appearance. The rhizome root is described as being ‘coral-like’, and the lip of the flower is usually covered in distinctive spots (3) (4). The genus Corallorhiza is derived from two Greek words, meaning ‘coral rhizome’ (3), and the species name maculata is from Latin, meaning ‘spotted’ (2) (3). There are two widely recognised varieties of the spotted coral-root orchid: Corallorhiza maculata variation maculata and Corallorhiza maculata variation occidentalis (2) (5) (6). There is a third variety, Corallorhiza maculata variationmexicana, which was recognised in 1997 (1) (7).
A leafless stem covered by small bracts, grows above ground to heights of between 15 and 55 centimetres (2) (4) (5). Each stem can produce as many as 50 flowers, with small, pointed, seed capsules present along the top third of the stem (2) (4).
The different varieties of C. maculata can be identified by differences in the size and shape of flower segments. C. maculata var. maculata has parallel or nearly parallel sides on the middle lobe of the lip, which is the middle petal that grows almost horizontally from the flower. In contrast, the middle lobe of the lip petal in both C. maculata var. occidentalis and C. maculata var. mexicana is broadly expanded (2) (4). In C. maculata var. occidentalis, spots cover the entire lip petal, while only the edges are spotted in C. maculata var. mexicana. (4)
There are as many as five defined colour forms of the spotted coral-root orchid, which can appear together within a local area (7). These range from the common rich, brown-red form to bright yellow, with the flowers usually the same colour as the stem (2) (3) (5) (7). The lip, though always white, varies in the level of spotting, from pure white with no spots to many spots all over the lip (2) (3) (6) (7).
- Height: up to 55 cm (2)