May 27, 2017

On the Fringe

Platanthera psycodes - Lesser purple fringed orchid

Platanthera psycodes – Lesser purple fringed orchid | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Platanthera psycodes is a native orchid found mostly along the edges of wetlands, fens and swamps. Lesser purple fringe orchid, as it is commonly known, is an impressive plant, growing up to 3 feet in height and sporting a raceme of fringed blooms. Their unique shape is part of their name, psycodes, which comes from a Greek word meaning butterfly.  Interestingly, it is a butterfly attractant, alluring to butterflies, moths and skippers, which pollinate the fragrant flowers. One site had this to say: “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.”

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.