COLEMAN’S CORALROOT } Hexalectris colemanii
FAMILY: Orchidaceae

DESCRIPTION: Except for its flowering stem, orchids in the genus Hexalectris are subterranean and appear above ground only to flower and reproduce. The flower of Coleman’s coralroot has a pinkish to cream stem and showy striped purple to pink petals with maroon or purple stripes.

HABITAT: Coleman’s coralroot grows in scrub oak and oak-pine-juniper habitats. It occurs in canyon bottoms and on the sides of canyons in partial to moderate shade. It has been found in areas with duff and heavy leaf litter, in sandy loam with leaf litter and in very thin humus layers. In some areas, it is found among rock outcrops or on the edges of rocky cliffs. The coralroot can only survive in association with the fungus and tree and shrub roots on which it is dependent for food.

RANGE: Coleman’s coralroot is only found in McCleary Canyon and Sawmill Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains, and in a single population in the Dragoon Mountains. It once occurred in the Baboquivari Mountains, but that population has been extirpated.

LIFE CYCLE: This plant does not bloom or come up every year. It typically flowers in May and June, though flowering in the orchid may vary based on rainfall, temperature, nutrient availability, or a combination of these or other unknown factors. At any given site, Coleman’s coralroot can produce as many as 75 plants in one year and zero plants the following year.

THREATS: Coleman’s coralroot is threatened by mining, livestock grazing, recreation, drought and global climate change.

POPULATION TREND: Only four populations of this orchid were ever known, and one of them no longer exists. The remaining three populations combined have fewer than 200 flowers in any given year. Populations are known to decline in times of drought.
Coleman's coralroot photo by Russ McSpadden/Center for Biological Diversity