New York Natural Heritage Program
Cranefly Orchid
Tipularia discolor (Pursh) Nutt.
Monocots

General Description [-]
Cranefly orchid flowers are produced in midsummer and grow on a very slender stem that is 2-5 dm tall. The inflorescence is a spike of many drooping flowers, then fruits, 1-2 decimeters long. The narrow sepals and lateral petals are 4-8 mm long and greenish-purple with purple veins. The lip is pale purple and translucent, 4-8 mm long with basal lobes that are nearly semicircular with ragged edges. The long lobe of the lip is linear and arched forward with the tip facing out. The margins are rolled under. The whitish spur is 15-22 mm long and the column 3-4 mm long. A single leaf is produced at ground level in the fall and persists through the winter into the early spring. It is wide-elliptic in shape, 5-10 cm long and 2.5-7 cm wide, with a 5 cm long petiole. It is somewhat pleated along the veins and greenish on top and shiny purple below.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
The plan can be identified with winter leaves or with summer flowers.

Similar Species [-]
Calypso and Puttyroot orchids also have winter leaves which are somewhat pleated and purple below but their ranges are north of Long Island and do not overlap. No other orchid has flowers similar to cranefly orchid.
Cranefly Orchid Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
Flowers mid-July through August, fruits persist to early October.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Vegetative Flowering Fruiting
The time of year you would expect to find Cranefly Orchid vegetative (blue shading), flowering (green shading) and fruiting (orange shading) in New York.