Puttyroot Orchids (Aplectrum hyemale) is a beautiful orchids that develops a single leaf in the fall which persists through the winter until late spring when it begins to flower. It is one of our more common orchids, but by no means does that mean it is abundant. It is found in higher quality habitats and seems to be especially adapted to mixed hardwood forests near streams.
A similar orchid to the puttyroot orchid is Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor), which also produces a single leaf in fall that persists during winter then vanishes when the orchid flowers. The main difference between the two orchids is the puttyroot orchid has white veins on its leaves, while the cranefly has spotted leaves. The flowers of cranefly also have nectar spurs that are long and slender, while the puttyroot orchid does not.
The biggest threats to both orchids are infestations of the invasive species Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum). This spring the natural areas staff is working hard to remove garlic mustard from the Wilson Creek valley to protect these orchid and many other wildflowers.