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Arethusa bulbosa L.

 

Dragon’s mouth orchid

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderAsparagalesA diverse group that includes asparagus
FamilyOrchidaceaeOrchid family
GenusArethusaIn Greek mythology, Arethusa was a naiad—a female spirit, or nymph—presiding over fountains, wells, springs, and streams
SpeciesbulbosaBulbous, swollen

About plant names...

Dragon’s mouth orchids are rare, found in northeastern North America. If you find some, please admire them, but don’t touch them! They prefer bogs, meadows, fens, and fields, and the edges of swamps and other wetlands. They are often found nestled among sphagnum mosses. This is the only species in this genus, though it is closely related to the Japanese species Eleorchis japonica. If you happen to be a bee, these flowers are all show and no substance, offering little in the way of nectar. Experienced bees quickly learn to avoid them.

Plants: Plants are practically invisible unless they are in flower, when their showy flowers are not easily confused with any other species. These are somewhat similar to Calopogon tuberosus (tuberous grass pinks), but dra­gon’s mouth orchids are smaller (less than 18" (45 cm)) tall, vs. up to 4' (1.2 m). And the labellum, or lip, is lowermost, vs. uppermost on grass pinks. Both orchids are found in the same habitats, in the parts of their range that overlaps.

Leaves: A single, basal, grasslike leaf, 1½-8" (4-20 cm) × ⅛-⅜" (3-12 mm), typically develops after flowering.

Flowers: Each stem is 4-16" (10-40 cm) long, and tipped by a single flower, rarely two. Each flower has three sepals on top, like rabbit ears, and two petals that form a hood. The sepals are ¾-2" (2-5.5 cm) long. A colorful lower lip—the labellum—is ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.5 cm) long, and white, with a yellow middle region and pink speckles, and some bristles in the center. Sepals and petals are pink to red, and rarely, white. Flowers appear from May through mid-July, depend­ing upon region.

Fruits: An erect capsule, ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) long.

These similar species are found in similar habitats:

 

Arethusa bulbosa (dragon’s mouth orchid)

A rare white dragon’s mouth orchid. · 12/8/2020 · Hancock County, Maine · By Susan Cole Kelly

Arethusa bulbosa (dragon’s mouth orchid)

12/8/2020 · Hancock County, Maine · By Susan Cole Kelly

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Arethusa bulbosa

Calopogon tuberosus

Pogonia ophioglossoides
Common Name

dragon’s mouth orchid

grass pink

rose pogonia
Plant Inconspicuous unless flowering, but flowers are showy and unique. At less than 16" (40 cm) tall, smaller than similar orchids. And the labellum, or lip, is lowermost, vs. uppermost on grass pinks. A single flowering stalk, up to 4' (1.2 m) in height (larger than similar species), with a single basal leaf. The labellum, is uppermost, vs. lowermost on dra­gon’s mouth orchids. 1½-28" (4-70 cm) tall, occurring sometimes in colonies.
Flowers Each stem is 4-16" (10-40 cm) long, and tipped by a single flower, rarely two. Each flower has three sepals on top, like rabbit ears, and two petals that form a hood. The sepals are ¾-2" (2-5.5 cm) long. A colorful lower lip—the labellum—is ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.5 cm) long, and white, with a yellow middle region and pink speckles, and some bristles in the center. Sepals and petals are pink to red, and rarely, white. Flowers appear from May to as late as mid-July, depend­ing upon region. Flowers occur in groups (racemes) of 2-25 flowers, each 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) wide. The fragrant flowers are light pink, magenta, or rarely, white. Sepals are ⅜-⅞" (1.2-2.5 cm) long, with a lobed labellum (lip) ⅜-⅞" (1.1-2.3 cm) in length. The labellum is larger in proportion to the flower, as compared to other orchids. Flowers appear from May to July. One, rarely two, or very rarely three flowers top each stalk. Flowers are pink, or rarely white. The labellum, or lip, has jagged (lacerate) edges and a “beard” comprised of several rows of dark pink, yellow, or purple hairs. It is ⅜-⅞" (1.2-2.5 cm) long. Sepals are ½-⅞" (1.4-2.3 cm) long. There is an erect upper sepal, and two petals forming a hood. Flowers appear from June to August.
Leaves A single, basal, grasslike leaf, 1½-8" (4-20 cm) × ⅛-⅜" (3-12 mm), typically develops after flowering. A single, basal leaf, narrow and linear in shape, is up to 15" (38 cm) long and 1" (2.5 cm) wide. A single clasping leaf appears midway up the stem. It is 1½-4" (3.8-10 cm) × ¾" (1.9 cm).
Fruit An erect capsule, ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) long. Oblong capsules up to ⅞" (2.5 cm) long. Fruits appear from July to September. An erect capsule up to 1" (2.5 cm) long.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 3-8
Habitats Bogs, meadows, fens, and fields, and the edges of swamps and other wetlands. Bogs, fens, swamps, damp meadows, grasslands, and savannas. Bogs, fens, prairies, meadows, woodlands, swamps, and along river or pond edges.
Type Wild Wild Wild
Occurrence Rare Rare Rare

 

Online References:

Arethusa bulbosa on orchids.botany.wisc.edu

Arethusa bulbosa on www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us (PDF)

Arethusa bulbosa on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org

Arethusa bulbosa on goorchids.northamericanorchidcenter.org

Arethusa bulbosa on Wikipedia

Arethusa bulbosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 24 Dec 2020.

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Range:

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