Coralroots are perennial herbs, lacking chlorophyll, usually yellowish to brownish-red with extensive coral-like rhizomes, the flowering stems with several membranous sheathing bracts, but green leaves lacking. They are saprophytes, taking nutrients from dead organic matter through a symbiotic (cooperative) association with fungi in the organic litter on the forest floor. Flowers are short-stalked in an elongate cluster with small bracts, the color is yellow to reddish-brown or purple. The 6 flower segments (tepals) are usually slightly cupped forward, the 5 upper ones usually quite similar, the lower one, called the lip, is often broad and conspicuously colored, simple or with side lobes near the base, the main lobe or blade usually obovate, entire to wavy-toothed on the edges, longitudinally ridged on either side of the midvein. The reproductive column is curved above the lip, compressed and concave on the lower side. Fruits are oval capsules, hanging down, ovoid to cylindric-ellipsoid. The genus has about 15 species of temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, all but one in North America. The name comes from the Greek korallion, coral, and riza, root.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Corallorhiza
C. maculata Spotted Coralroot Brown-purplish, 20-40 cm tall. Moist to fairly dry, shaded woods.
Flowers brownish-purple, the lip lobed, white, usually strongly purple-spotted.
Leaves reduced to thin, semi-transparent sheaths on the stem. Medicinal plant.
C. striata Striped Coralroot Purplish-tinged, 15-40 cm tall. In deep, usually coniferous forests.
Flowers pink or purplish, with 3 darker stripes. Lip dark purple with heavy stripes.
Leaves reduced to thin, semi-transparent sheaths on the stem.