The ghostly white glow of the Phantom Orchid is striking in the deep shade of its forest setting. This species grows only in the decomposing litter of the forest floor. It is snow white in color, lacks leaves, contains no chlorophyll, and cannot manufacture its own food. Saprophytes like this orchid obtain their food from organic material in the substrate through a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Of the 15 species of Cephalanthera, the Phantom Orchid is the only one found outside of the Eastern hemisphere and the only species of its genus to be totally dependent on fungi for survival.
DISTRIBUTION: Decomposed litter of rich soil in mixed evergreen or coniferous forests from NW Calif. and the Cascade Ranges to the High Sierra Nevada, San Francisco Bay Area, the northern outer South Coast Ranges and San Bernardino Mts.; 300-1200 m.