Plant of the Week

Map of the United States showing states. States are colored green where the species may be found.
Range map of Calopogon tuberosus. States are colored green where the species may be found.

Tuberous Grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) flower.
Close-up view of tuberous grasspink flower. The hairy structure at the top of the flower is the lip, which attracts insect pollinators by imitating the anthers of other flower species. The column, which points downward from the center of the flower, is the real pollen-bearing structure. Photo by Jay Martin.

Calopogon tuberosus.
Side view of tuberous grasspink flowers. Photo by Jay Martin.

Tuberous Grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) habitat.
Typical habitat for tuberous grasspink, Cranberry Glades, West Virginia. U.S. Forest Service file photo.

Tuberous Grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus)

By Kent Karriker

Tuberous grasspink is a very aptly named member of the orchid family. Its slender leaves resemble blades of grass, and the flower ranges in color from light pink to magenta. The root is a rounded corm; hence the "tuberous" part of the name. As with all members of the orchid family, the showy flower of tuberous grasspink exhibits bilateral symmetry, and it has a modified petal known as a "lip" that aids in attracting insect pollinators. The erect lip of the tuberous grasspink is decorated with hairs that resemble the pollen-bearing anthers of other flower species. However, these hairs are merely a ruse that fools the visiting insect into landing on the flower's central column, whereupon pollen sacs at the end of the column stick to the insect's body.

Tuberous grasspink is widely distributed across eastern and central North America. However, it is limited to sunny wetland habitats like bogs, fens, and wet meadows, so it is considered uncommon in some parts of its range. It is rare enough to have state protection in Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Rhode Island. It is also considered rare in Vermont, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Quebec, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island.

Unlike exotic tropical orchid species, grasspinks reportedly are easy to grow in North American gardens. Although growing grasspinks from seed is a task best left to experts, grasspinks can be grown by planting the corms in a moist, sunny location. They are tolerant of a variety of soil conditions as long as constant moisture and full sun are provided. As with any native species, plant material should be obtained from a verified commercially propagated source. Collecting plants from the wild should be avoided, especially in locations where they are considered rare. Collecting plants from public land is against the law in many places.

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Yellow Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).
Yellow Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)