Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Purple Fringeless Orchid (Platanthera peramoena)

As summer winds to its inevitable close I find myself already looking forward to next year's edition.  I've seen a remarkable amount this past season, more than I could ever hope or even try to share with you on here, but a few species still eluded me.  How anyone could ever truly see everything they want in one year is beyond me and I think it's important to miss some just for the sake of something to look forward to as the depths of winter take hold.  Despite the few that remained on the life list plenty more have a very satisfying check mark next to their name.  One wildflower that received an extra bold mark for it's ability to evade my detection the past few years was was the delightful Purple Fringeless Orchid (Platanthera peramoena). 

Purple Fringeless Orchids - Platanthera peramoena

It's becoming more and more evident that perhaps I should change the name of this blog to Ohio's Native Orchids, as my infatuation and deep-rooted love for these wondrous monocots only grows stronger by the day.  I do my best to keep things balanced on the seemingly infinite number of subjects within the vascular plant world but I can't help but keep coming back to orchids.  Ohio has 46 native members of the Orchidaceae family and the purple fringeless is no doubt one of the most remarkable of its kin.

Close up of the individual inflorescences beginning to unfurl

While walking through a wet meadow in Indian Creek Wildlife Area I came across this lone and rather robust plant who's buds were just beginning to break their silence and show off their perfect blooms.  Each flower was easily the size of a quarter and the most rich and brilliant shade of pink I've ever seen.  Part of me was a bit disappointed to have not found the plant in full bloom, however the chance to see a few fully-opened flowers along with buds in varying degrees of unfurling was rather unique.  Each delicately designed and constructed flower beckons its large butterfly and moth pollinating friends to pay a visit and leave with a package of pollen, or pollinia, to share with the next inflorescence it visits.  Hard to imagine any passing Lepidoptera would choose to ignore this beckon of pink in a sea of green.

Purple Fringeless Orchid - Platanthera peramoena
Taking a closer look at an individual inflorescence of this orchid reveals the true beauty and design behind the flower itself.  The scientific epithet even plays tribute to this plants beauty.  The latin word 'peramoena' translates to 'very loving' in regards to the flowers stunning and 'lovely' appearance.  It hails from the same genera of its closely related cousins; the Greater and Lesser Purple Fringed orchids (Platanthera grandiflora, P. psycodes).  The purple fringed orchids exhibit an obvious fringe to the central lobe of their lower lips while the purple fringeless only shows a slight 'toothing' around the margin of the lip (hence the name 'fringeless'). 

Purple Fringeless Orchid - Platanthera peramoena

P. peramoena is largely southern in range and can be found predominately in the south-western quarter of Ohio.  This orchid is relatively dependent on moisture and is most commonly found in the wet, mucky soils of meadows, prairies, swamps, lake/stream banks as well as openings in floodplain/wet woods.  It's also known to tolerate moderate disturbance that removes taller, competing vegetation such as trees and shrubs.  It can withstand some amounts of shade however the more sunlight it receives the healthier and more robust the plant appears.  Like many other orchids this species can be very fickle on when it decides to bloom or remain dormant in the ground.  One can never guarantee seeing this plant from one year to the next even if you know exactly where to look.  Here's to hoping next year is a boom year for this species as just this one only added to the drive and thirst to see more!

You can trust to see future posts exhibiting Ohio's native orchids.  As of the day of this publication I have seen 35 of the 46 indigenous species this year alone with the promise of a few more still to go!


  1. Go for it, orchid hunter! But they are fickle and will elude you, adding to the thrill of the hunt. So Ohio has only 46 native orchids? We in New York have at least 55, so I've got a long way to go to find them all.

  2. Wow!!! I can see why you've fallen for these flowers. Gorgeous...I love the color you've achieved in the photos too.

  3. Nice! I'd love to find an orchid like that in my neck of the woods, I'm just afraid if one would exist it would probably attract more deer than pollinators.peace brother!

  4. - Thanks, Mike! I took your advice about making the pictures larger and I think it looks great!

    - Jackie, consider yourself lucky to have so many! I'm sure there are only a few here that you don't have (this particular species included). I'd still love to take you up on the offer and come visit next summer for some key species (esp. Arethusa and P. blephariglottis)!

    - Thanks a lot, Kelly! Keep an eye out next July and you may see you in your area!

    - You'd be surprised, Michael...many deer do browse on these and other orchids but I think most leave them alone. These are known from your area so keep an eye out next year.