AppearanceAutumn lady's tresses is a polycarp, perennial, herbaceous plant that remains underground during its dormancy in summer with tubers. The species has thirty chromosomes.
It is a small grey-green plant. It forms a rosette of four to five pointed, sessile, ovate leaves about 3 cm in length. In late summer an unbranched stem of about 10–15 cm tall is produced with approximately four sheath-shaped leaves.
The white flowers are about 5 mm long and have a green spot on the lower lip. They are arranged in a helix around the upper half of the stalk.
StatusThe species is listed in Appendix II of CITES as a species that is not currently threatened with extinction but that may become so. Autumn lady's-tresses are legally protected in Belgium and the Netherlands.
HabitatIt grows in dry grassy places such as meadows, garigue, heaths, and pine woodland, generally on calcareous soils. Autumn lady's tresses may be found on quite different substrates, from weathered chalk and limestone to sand and gravel in dunes and slightly acidic heathlands.
Occasionally, it has also been found on clay on sloping sites. It sometimes occurs in lawns, and was reported from the top of a wall in Sicily. Soils need to be low in nitrogen and phosphorus and neither dry nor wet.
The species occurs in different plant communities, most commonly in highly diverse ''Festuca ovina''–''Avenula pratensis'' grasslands that exist because of intense grazing by sheep or rabbits. These grasslands contain grasses, dicots, and mosses in different mixtures.
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