Platanthera psycodes (L.) Lindley

Small purple fringed-orchid

The specific epithet psycodes is an incorrect spelling (by Linneaus) of the Greek psychodes, meaning "butterfly-like," apparently a reference to the appearance of the flowers.

DESCRIPTION: Plant glabrous, arising from a cluster of fleshy, thickened roots, 20-90 cm tall. Leaves 2-5, lanceolate to elliptical to obovate, gradually reduced to lanceolate bracts higher up on the stem, 5-19 cm long and 2-7 cm wide, keeled. Inflorescence a loose or dense raceme, 20-50(-100) flowered; flowers lilac-purple to reddish-purple or rarely white, fragrant, each flower subtended by a lance-linear, acuminate bract. Sepals ovate-elliptic to ovate, 4-6 mm long and 2-4 mm wide, colored as flowers; dorsal sepal loosely connivent with petals, lateral sepals concave, reflexed. Petals obovate to spatulate, 4-9 mm long and 2-6 mm wide, the margin finely lacerate or toothed, loosely appressed to the dorsal sepal and colored as the sepals. Labellum tripartite and fringed (the divisions typically reaching much less than halfway to the base of the labellum), shallowly clawed, each segment of labellum fan-shaped; 7-13 mm long and 7-15 mm wide, colored as flowers but with claw typically white; base of labellum with a +/- clubbed nectar spur projecting behind, 1.3-2.5 cm long.

It is unlikely that Platanthera psycodes could be confused with any other species in the Wisconsin flora. Rare albino individuals could be confused with either P. leucophaea or P. lacera. See both of those species for a discussion of how distinguish them from an albino P. psycodes.

Platanthera psycodes inhabits a variety of moist, open habitats. Typical habitats include stream and river banks, roadside ditches, and moist meadows.

July 5-August 15.

POLLINATION: Stoutamire (1974) observed butterflies and diurnal hawkmoths, as well as nocturnal moths, pollinating Platanthera psycodes. Sky Feller (personal communication) has recently observed the same groups of insects pollinating P. psycodes.

DISCUSSION: This is perhaps the most beautiful orchid in the Wisconsin flora. If it could be cultivated successfully, it would make a wonderful addition to any garden. Unfortunately, attempts to asymbiotically propagate Platanthera psycodes have been largely unsuccessful. I have begun an attempt to symbiotically germinate and grow P. psycodes which will hopefully succeed.

Go directly to Wisconsin herbarium records.
Return to the main LIST of the Orchids of Wisconsin.

Return to the main KEY to the Orchids of Wisconsin.