Please, never pick or attempt to transplant 
Orchids (or any other) wild plant. 

Click to purchase plants from legitimate plant nurseries.
Many Orchids are endangered.
Orchid habitat is very specialized.
Orchid pollination is very specialized.
Orchid germination is very specialized.
Admire plants in the wild and let them live.

Also see Calypso bulbosa, Epipactis gigantea, Cypripedium parviflorum, and Green Orchids.

Click for Scotty Smith's Orchids of Colorado.

Corallorhiza maculata
Corallorhiza maculata variety maculata (Spotted Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Blooming information withheld to protect the Orchids.

These delicate Orchids grow on eight to twenty inch tall showy maroon stalks, but yellow albino plants (pictured below) are not unusual.  Corallorhiza maculata prefers shady Aspen and Conifer forests where its coral-resembling roots feed off the forest floor fungi and roots of other plants: the Orchids are thus parasitic.

These Orchids (and other Orchids) were formerly considered saprophytic but recent research shows that no plants are saprophytic; those thought to be saprophytic are actually parasitic, living off fungi which in turn are parasitic on the roots of living plants.

Corallorhiza maculata occurs with just one or two stalks or dozens, and the stalks remain upright and obvious long after the flowers are gone.  Where you find one plant, you will almost certainly find more nearby.

The Corallorhiza genus was named by Jean Chatelain, probably in the late 1700s.   In 1817 Constantine Rafinesque named this species which was collected from "shady woods of Long Island, near Flatbush, Flushing, Oyster-Bay, etc." by an unidentified collector.  (Quotation from Rafinesque in Intermountain Flora.)

"Corallorhiza" is Greek for "coral root" and "maculata" is Latin for "spotted".

Click for more Corallorhiza maculata.

Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata variety maculata (Spotted Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Flowers of Corallorhiza maculata are variably spotted, one-half inch high, and numerous. 

Corallorhiza maculata variety maculata (Spotted Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata  Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata   Corallorhiza maculata

Corallorhiza maculata variety maculata (Spotted Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

The first photographs at left show the fairly common yellow-stemmed, albino forms of C. maculata. These forms can easily be confused with C. trifida which tends to have lighter stems than those of Corallorhiza maculata. See below for a discussion of the differences in the two species.

The remaining photographs at left show other stages of unfolding flowers and finally the drooping seed pods.

Corallorhiza maculata
Corallorhiza maculata variety maculata (Spotted Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Pods hold a myriad of minute seeds.

Corallorhiza trifida

Corallorhiza trifida







Corallorhiza trifida (Yellow Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Several key characteristics separate Corallorhiza trifida from C. maculata:
1) C. trifida is much smaller in physical characteristics:

a) C. trifida grows from 5-25 centimeters tall versus 15-45 cm for C. maculata.
b) C. trifida's flower lip is 3.5-4.5 millimeters long and 2-3 mm wide whereas the lip of     C. maculata's flower is 8-12 long and 6-8 wide.
c) C. trifida's sepals are less than 6 mm long (and are often yellow to white); those of     C. maculata are more than 6 mm long (and are often shades of red).

2) C. trifida's stem and sepals are shades of yellow; C. maculata's stem can be yellow (in the fairly common albino variety) but is most often shades of red, as are its sepals.

3) C. trifida's flower lip is white (sometimes with a few red spots), oblong, usually with a small up-curved tooth on each side near the base. C. maculata's flower lip is white with very obvious red spots, and the lip is often very broad, rounded and scalloped at the tip with two small but prominent lobes near the base.

4) C. trifida's sepals always have one nerve; C. maculata's sepals usually have 3 nerves.

C. trifida was described and named in 1760 but the locality and collector are unknown. "Trifida" means "three-parted", perhaps referring to the three divisions of the lip.

Corallorhiza wisteriana

Corallorhiza wisteriana

Corallorhiza wissteriana








Corallorhiza wisteriana (Wister's Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Because Corallorhiza wisteriana is quite slender, no more than about 9 inches tall, and occurs in scattered patches in leaf litter, it is difficult to find. But it is fairly common in its preferred habitats throughout the mountains of the Four Corners area. Pleasant patient searching is rewarded.

Stems of Corallorhiza wisteriana are typically, as shown in the photographs, a brown-red to dark maroon, but Orchid expert Scotty Smith indicates that "many color forms exist of the orchid, including light yellow, green, pink, and red".

Although the petals appear to be bright white, a close look with a hand lens will show spots similar to, but much fainter than those of C. maculata. (In their type locale and habitat in the eastern United States, Corallorhiza wisteriana has much more prominent spots). C. wisteriana and C. maculata also differ in that the lip on Corallorhiza wisteriana does not have the eared tabs that are present on Corallorhiza maculata.

Corallorhiza wisteriana was described and named by Solomon Conrad for Charles Wister who first collected this species for science in 1828 in what is now a patch of freeways in Philadelphia. Click to read more about Wister.

Corallorhiza striata

Corallorhiza striata

Corallorhiza striata (Striped Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Blooming information withheld to protect the Orchids. 

C. striata and C. maculata look very similar as they emerge from the ground but once the flowers unfold, the difference is clear: stripes versus spots. 

C. striata is also a bit shorter plant than C. maculata;

C. striata sheaths along the lower part of the stem are more closely spaced;

C. striata flowers are about 1 1/2 times the size of the flowers of C. maculata;

The flowers of C. striata tend to be more spherical in overall shape;

The lip of the flowers of C. striata is entire, that of C. maculata is often wavy edged with two prominent lateral lobes near its base;

C. striata stems tend to be light red to buff to yellow and C. maculata stems tend to be more toward maroon.

Both plants enjoy open Spruce/Pine/Aspen forests where they are fairly common. Once you have spotted one plant, stand still, look around, and you will almost certainly find more. And, of course, appreciate the plants where you find them. They will die if you try to transplant them.

Corallorhiza striata

Corallorhiza striata(Striped Coralroot)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Questionable presence

Range map for Corallorhiza maculata  

Range map for Corallorhiza striata

Corallorhiza trifida

Range map for Corallorhiza trifida