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Purple Fringed Orchid

A mountainside road, scaling the heights of a high peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lots of stuff to see on such a drive, but my eye was grabbed by a quick flash of purple in the ditch...

Excellent! Purple fringed orchid, Platanthera pyscodes, a plant I had not seen for a number of years. It's quite the rarity in Ohio, where it is considered threatened and known from but a few sites. These plants were whoppers as well, towering to about two feet in height.

To be technical, I should probably call this one small purple fringed orchid, to distinguish it from the extremely similar large purple fringed orchid, P. grandiflora. Unless you have firsthand experience with both of these closely allied species, you're going to struggle to figure out which one you've got. Some authorities have submerged the latter into the former, and just give grandiflora a varietal rank - Platanthera psycodes var. grandiflora.

The purple fringed orchids are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, among the most beautiful of North American orchids. The lacerated or fringed flowers are works of art, and the color is nearly shocking. Anyone would be impressed. I hope you get to see this plant sometime, if you've not already.


A.L. Gibson said…
Great post, Jim! I just saw this in full bloom at Cedar Bog over the weekend. I found two stalks, one a bit over two feet tall just 10-15 feet off the boardwalk in the swamp woods area. After showing Eric and talking with him he said he'd never in all his years at the fen seen it come up in that spot. You couldn't be more right about their beauty.

P.S. the Platanthera leucophaea are in bloom as well not too far from Cedar Bog if you haven't seen them yet this year :)

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