What is this?

Asked October 7, 2020, 11:28 AM EDT

There are dozens or these growing sparsely under a group of hemlocks on my wooded lot. The are between 6” and 12”. I’ve noticed them for years and just thought they were dead weed stalks. They are clearly still alive and choosing to grow there. I described them to a guy at the plant nursery and he suggested they may be a type or orchid. Now I’m really curious. Thanks Kris

Grand Traverse County Michigan

7 Responses

Do these have any leaves or flowers? I am not able to identify it from this picture. If you could give me more of a description it might help.

I don’t know if those are buds but I have never seen any leaves . They just grow late summer early fall and look like the picture until late fall. The stem is cool and smooth. I never stopped to look closely because I just thought they we dead weeds.

One of the top buds appears to be opening and may be a tiny non-descript flower.
I saw pictures of a an autumn and a striped corallorhiza it looked somewhat similar but these are branching and not a single stalk.

A close up of the open flower would be very helpful. You might take a bud, and carefully pry it open with a tweezer or pin, so as to be able to see the petals, count them etc. Then give us a picture.

As near as I can see you are correct, Corallorhiza species


I will submit this to MSU, but if you can get a photo of a bud pryed open, and attach it here, that would be helpful.

I think this could be a native parasitic plant called beech-drops (Epifagus virginiana). I know you said it is appearing under hemlock trees, but are there also any beech trees in the area?

You can read some more information here on Michigan Flora https://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=1862

If you click on “All Images” you will also see a plant that looks like yours.

Feel free to email me directly at hiller12@msu.edu.

Yes bench trees too.

I got lucky. Blossoms!!! They are about 1/2” long.

I think you’ve ID it. We’ve had the property 30 years. They have always been here but I never realized they were still alive. Will they die off if it frosts?
Thank you!!!!

Yes, they are annuals. When I read about them before it seems that each plant that flowers (August-Oct) can produce an average of 827 seeds...so it looks like they've been doing a good job reseeding themselves on your property if you've been seeing them for 30 years :)

You're welcome, happy to help!