By Rita Reisor, Conservation Director
Spirals of beautiful cream-colored flowers wind up the stalks of the rare Ute Ladies’ Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes diluvialis) in our Conservation greenhouse.
These native stream orchids are a Federally threatened species, which means that they are protected by law in order to prevent extinction. Though widespread across the western U.S., loss of habitat, hydrologic modifications, invasive species, and grazing has highly affected the health of these populations. Grown from seeds the size of a speck dust, our plants are the result of propagation research conducted in partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Initially the seeds were carefully grown in test tubes under controlled conditions and in a specialized nutrient agar. A few years later we received tiny seedlings back, which were carefully acclimated into soil once again.
The Garden also participates in research on Ute Ladies’ Tresses through survey, propagation, salvage and transplant, and seed banking projects.
If you have a sharp eye, these plants can be found in the wild along the banks and sand bars of several rivers and lakes in Utah, including the Green River, Diamond Fork Canyon, and Utah Lake. Bloom time in the wild varies with elevation, and ranges from mid-July to early September.