Platanthera chlorantha   Greater Butterfly-orchid C DD N

Plantanthera chlorantha whole Plantanthera chlorantha flower head Plantanthera chlorantha floret

This is distinguished from the Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) by the way the pollinia (small sacks of pollen) are aligned. In P. chloranatha they diverge as you look down towards the end of the pollinia (yellow blobs on stalks) and in P. bifolia they are parallel. The divergence can be seen in the floret on the right hand side.

The chlorantha part of the name refers to the slightly greenish tinge of these white flowers which are also fragrant. The whiteness and fragrance of the flower means that it is attractive to night flying moths and the pollinia have been found attached to such insects.

It is widely distributed through the British Isles but its preferred habitat would be basic soil and the dappled shade of woodland. This is exactly where I first saw this elegant orchid at the side of the rides through Waresley Wood in Cambridgeshire in the late 1970s.

Bonsai bank near Anvil Green, Kent 2nd June 2007

Added on December 13th 2004, new photos and text on 11th June 2007