Summer lady's-tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis)

Summer lady's tresses inflorescence
Loading more images and videos...

Summer lady's-tresses fact file

Summer lady's-tresses description

GenusSpiranthes (1)

Summer lady's-tresses is thought to be extinct in Britain (3). This orchid produces 5-20 (5) yellowish-white flowers (2) in a spiral row (5). The roots are fleshy, and the stem is hairless (5).

Height: 12-30 cm (2)

Summer lady's-tresses biology

The flowers, which are produced between mid-July and mid-August, are said to produce scent during the evening; it is believed that they are pollinated by moths, although this has not been proven (5).


Summer lady's-tresses range

This orchid was first discovered in 1840, and has always been rare in Britain, only ever having been recorded from two small areas in the New Forest (5). 200 plants were found at one site in 1900, but the population had fallen to just 20 by the start of the 1930s (5). It is thought to have become extinct by 1959 (6), and no records have been made since (5). It occurs in western, southern and central Europe, reaching east to Turkey and Russia, and is also found in North Africa (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.

Summer lady's-tresses habitat

Summer lady's-tresses inhabits boggy or marshy areas, close to streams or springs (5). In the New Forest it is found in valley mires (6).


Summer lady's-tresses status

Believed to be extinct in Britain (3). Listed under Annex IVb of the EC Species and Habitats Directive, and Appendix I of the Bern Convention (4).


Summer lady's-tresses threats

Drainage of the wet, boggy habitats favoured by this orchid is likely to have played a part in its decline. Plants were also dug up for private collections, and this certainly reduced the British population (5).


Summer lady's-tresses conservation

The listing of this orchid under the Species and Habitats Directive means that sites supporting this species can be protected. English Nature has included summer lady's-tresses in its Species Recovery Programme; should this orchid be rediscovered in Britain, conservation action will get underway.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.

Find out more

For more on English Nature's Species Recovery Programme see:



Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:



  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2002)
  2. Williams, J. G., Williams, A. E. and Arlott, N. (1978) A field guide to the orchids of Britain and Europe with north Africa and the Middle East. Collins, London.
  3. English Nature. Species Recovery Programme. (September 2002):
  4. JNCC (September 2002):
  5. Lang, D. (1980) Orchids of Britain. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Byfield, A. (2003) Plantlife. Pers. comm.

Image credit

Summer lady's tresses inflorescence  
Summer lady's tresses inflorescence

© Bob Gibbons / Natural Image

Natural Image
24 Newborough Rd
BH21 1RD
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 675 916
Fax: +44 (0) 1202 848 419


Link to this photo

ARKive species - Summer lady's-tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!