Goodyera repens - Creeping Lady's-tresses

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Liliopsida - Order: Orchidales - Family: Orchidaceae

Goodyera repens

Extinct from many of its former stations Goodyera repens is now nationally scarce and threatened by some types of woodland management. It is particularly vulnerable when trees are thinned out.

Creeping Lady's-tresses, closeup of flowers

The specimens shown above were photographed in early July at Cliburn Moss National Nature Reserve in Cumbria where over 40 plants were counted on the day that we visited. (Pictures: Rob Petley-Jones)


Creeping Lady's-tresses is an evergreen plant that grows to around 20cm in height when in flower. At other times of the year the only visible part of the plant is a basal rosette of leaves which remain green and are easily spotted among surrounding dead, brown vegetation. Another distinguishing feature of the leaves is the veining which fans across their surfaces and is quite unlike the leaves of other orchid species where the veins are parallel.

Creeping Lady's-tresses - basal rosette of leaves

The inflorescence carries around 15-25 pure white flowers which are extremely hairy. The flowers open in a spiral but much less obviously so than on the closely related species Spiranthes spiralis. The flower spike of Goodyera repens appears more one-sided once the majority of the flowers open.


This orchid is found in eastern and northern Scotland, in Cumbria, Northumberland and County Durham in northern England and there is also an outpost in Norfolk. In the case of the latter it is thought that the plants may have been accidentally introduced with pine seedlings.


Goodyera repens is found mainly in mature, undisturbed pine woods sometimes mixed with broadleaved trees - Birch, in particular.It grows in woodland clearings and other open sites where there is plenty of light but not too much direct sunshine. It spreads via numerous stolons and new plants form in loose humus close to the parent plants. This method of spreading, as well as its habitat, are two of the factors that sets it aside from other similiar species such as Autumn Lady's-tresses - Spiranthes spiralis


This orchid is rare and very localised in the UK. The only colonies found in Britain today are in Scotland, northern England and east to Norfolk. In Europe it can be found from Sweden in the north and as far south as Portugal.

Flowering times

Creeping Lady's-tresses flower from June and onwards well into August.


The genus name Goodyera is named after the English botanist John Goodyer (1592 - 1664). The specific epithet repens means 'creeping' or 'spreading'.

Reference sources

The Plant List

Anne and Simon Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland; A&C Black

Pierre Delforge (2005) Orchids of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; A&C Black

Den Nordiska Floran (1992) Bo Mossberg, Stefan Ericsson and Lennart Stenberg; Wahlstrom & Widstrand

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