Coral-root Orchid – Orchidales Orchidaceae Corallorhiza maculata

Identification & Description:
Coral-root orchid (Corallorhiza maculata), an interesting mycotrophic wildflower that grows in the shady conifer forests of San Diego County. The stem develops from a fleshy mass of fungal hyphae and tree roots deep in the ground, and resembles a clump of soft corals. As with most orchids, the germinated seed of this species starts out in a mycorrhizal relationship with a compatible soil fungus. It continues this symbiotic relationship with a fungus throughout its entire life. Since it is heterotrophic and nonphotosynthetic, it absorbs carbohydrates and minerals from its fungal partner, which in turn absorbs these vital nutrients from the roots of nearby trees.

Family: Orchid (Orchidaceae)
Habitat: woods, usually moist woods
Height: 6-20 inches
Flower size: 3/4 inch long
Flower color: brown and white with purple spots
Flowering time: July to August
Origin: native