Tipularia discolor

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Latin Name

Tipularia discolor

Common Name(s)

cranefly orchid, crainfly orchid (Pennsylvania), crane-fly orchid (Florida), Crippled cranefly

Plant Family


Plant Description (Height/Habit/General Characteristics)

A herbaceous perennial that grows up to 20 inches tall with the flower stalk. Single leaf visible from fall through spring and then flower stalk through summer.

Tiun2 001 lvd.jpg
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 573.

Leaf Description

A single leaf is prevalent during the winter months which allows it to photosynthesize in the open sun left by the leaf-less canopy. Petioles 3–15 cm; blade purple abaxially, green or greenish purple adaxially, ovate, 5–10.5 × 2.5–7 cm. Inflorescences 8–28 cm; floral bracts 0.2 mm. The leaf is lost late spring and does not reappear until the fall.

Tipularia discolor 3310 2015 02.jpg Tipularia discolor 3310 2015 03.jpg
Underside showing purple color

Flower Description

The flowering stem is 15-20 inches tall and devoid of leaves. Flowers are green, pale greenish yellow, or greenish purple, sepals distinct and free, oblong-elliptic to oblanceolate, 5–8 × 1.5–2.8 mm; petals linear-oblong to oblong-elliptic to linear-oblanceolate, 4–7 × 1–1.8 mm; lip 5–8 × 2.5–3 mm, with 2 prominent basal lobes, spur 10–23 mm; column 2.5–4 mm. The flowers bloom mid to late summer.

Tipularia discolor 3310 2015 05.jpg

Seed Description

Seed capsules 9–12 × 4–5 mm and filled with hundreds of tiny seeds.

Tipularia discolor 3310 2015 04.JPG

Bark/Stem Description

Stems are scapose, glabrous, basally 1–2-sheathed.

Other Information

Tipularia discolor is the only species in the genus Tipularia found in North America. Tipularia discolor is pollinated by noctuid moths, the pollinaria attaching to either the left or right compound eye depending on whether the column of a particular flower is slightly twisted to the left or to the right (W. P. Stoutamire 1978).It can be found in every county of Georgia, but in some states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts it is considered threatened.

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Underside of leaf is a dark purple

Collection Location on GGC’s Campus

The plant is abundant within the woods north of B building and west of the softball field. There are numerous examples of this plant in each of the four forest plots and one can be found on the left-hand side of the main path into the woods, approximately 30 feet down the path. GPS: 33° 58’ 48.83” N, 84° 0’ 18.49” W


This orchid is found in moist humus-rich soils of deciduous forest along slopes and stream terraces, and in areas with acid soils, such as oak-pine forests.

Historic Range

It is found scattered throughout the Southeastern United States as far west as Texas and as far north as Michigan.

Range Map

Tipularia discolor 3310 2015 01.JPG

Cultural Information

This species of orchid has no medicinal or cultural significance.

The name orchid is from the Greek word "orkhis", which means testicle. Because of this translation, the orchid symbolizes sexuality in many cultures. To determine if a man was going to have a boy or girl in ancient Greece, they (men) would eat large root tubers for a boy and smaller ones for a girl.

This page was created by:

Dennis Crawford Spring 2015 BIOL-3310-Section 1

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