17. Spiranthes praecox (Walter) S. Watson in A. Gray et al., Manual ed. 6. 503. 1890.
Limodorum praecox Walter, Fl. Carol., 221. 1788; Ibidium praecox (Walter) House
Plants 20–75 cm. Roots numerous, slender, mostly to 0.8 cm diam. Leaves persisting through anthesis, to 7, primarily basal reduced to sheathing bracts upward on stem, spreading, linear to linear-lanceolate, 10–25 × 1–5 cm. Spikes loosely to tightly spiraled, 4–7 flowers per cycle of spiral or nearly secund; rachis sparsely pubescent, some trichomes capitate, glands obviously stalked. Flowers white, rarely green; sepals distinct to base, 5.5–10 mm × 2–3 mm; lateral sepals clasping lip, appearing tubular; petals adhering to dorsal sepal, linear, 5–10 × 1–2 mm, apex subacute; lip oblong, 5.5–11 × 2–6 mm, apex dilated, margins often crenulate or toothed, glabrous on adaxial distal surface; veins raised, green, rarely cream colored, prominent, branches divergent, extending nearly to apex; basal calli straight, long-pointed, slender, mostly to 1 mm; viscidium linear-lanceolate; ovary mostly 5 mm. Seeds monoembryonic.
Flowering Feb--Jun (Sep, north). Primarily on coastal plain and Gulf Coast in dry to moist roadsides, fields, pine flatwoods, pine savannas, cemeteries; 0--400 m; Ala., Ark., Del., Fla., Ga., La., Md., Miss., N.J., N.C., Okla., S.C., Tex., Va.
Typical plants are easily recognized by the stark white flowers with green venation of the lip. In forma albolabia P. M. Brown & C. McCartney, the lip appears pure white but the raised veins are actually a pale yellow. Plants with creamy green to green flowers, usually in tight spirals, and incurved lateral sepals are local to frequent in north-central Florida and scattered westward in the Gulf counties to eastern Texas.
Hybrids of Spiranthes praecox with S. vernalis are known as Spiranthes × meridionalis P. M. Brown.