Platanthera bifolia plate
Platanthera bifolia plate from
Flore Illustree de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes, Iconographie des Orchidees

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Subfamily: Orchidoideae
Tribe: Orchideae
SubTribe: Orchidinae
Genus: Platanthera
L.C.Rich. 1817
Type Species
Platanthera bifolia

The genus Platanthera abbreviated as P. in horticultural trade, belongs to the subfamily Orchidoideae of the family Orchidaceae, and is comprised of about 100 species of orchids.


These orchids may be found distributed about the subarctic and temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere: from Scandinavia to North Africa, Madeira, Iceland, Asia Minor, Russia, the Himalayas, North America and Alaska. Areas of particular diversity include the North America, with 32 species, and eastern Asia, with a similar number of species.


Species of Platanthera are perennial terrestrial herbs, erect in habit. The roots are fasciculate and typically fleshy and slender, although they may be somewhat tuberous; if tuberous they are lanceolate to fusiform and not ovoid. The leaves are generally fleshy and range from oblong or ovoid to lanceolate. Leaf shape often varies with the lower leaves more ovoid in shape, progressively becoming more lanceolate as they progress up the scape; floral bracts, if present, are lanceolate to linear. The base of the leaves typically sheathes the stem. The inflorescence is terminal and solitary, and the flowers form a cylindrical spike that ranges from sparse to dense. The flowers are typically resupinate, and often showy and colorful. The petals and labellum are typically entire, but in a number of North American species they may be fringed or edentate; in this group of species the labellum is also often deeply lobed or auricuate. The seed capsules are cylindrical and ridged.

These terrestrial orchids develop in a wide range of soil types and habitats, from strongly basic soils to deeply acidic bog soils, from forest openings and in clearings within the forest to open tundra. In all cases they require moist soils and are not found in dry or desert locations. While their fleshy tuberculous roots can store water, allowing them to survive temporary drought, they cannot survived extended drought.

Platanthera may be distinguished from Orchis and Habenaria by the absence of stigmatic processes, and the absence of ovoid roots.



Louis Claude Richard chose the name Platanthera for this genus; it comes from the Greek and means "broad or wide anther," referring to the separation of the base of the pollinia in the type species of the genus. Richard felt that this characteristic distinguished the genus Platanthera from both the genus Orchis and the genus Habenaria. However, today the defining characteristics of the genus are generally accepted to be the absence of both stigmatic processes (typical in Habenaria) and ovoid root-tuberoids (characteristic of both Habenaria and Orchis).


  1. Lysias Salisb. 1900
  2. Tulotis Raf. 1833

Species Edit

Natural HybridsEdit


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