Platanthera aquilonis northern green orchid

Alaska Wildflowers | Green and “Other” Colors

Close-up of a northern green orchid (Platanthera aquilonis) flower spike. The cylindrical spike is densely packed with small, greenish-yellow flowers, each with a distinctive bilateral symmetry. The background is softly blurred, highlighting the delicate structure and vibrant color of the orchid.

Platanthera aquilonis northern green orchid

Common Names

platanthère du Nord
tall northern green orchid
eagle rein orchid
green-flowered bog orchid
leafy northern green orchid
north wind bog orchid
northern green bog orchid
northern green orchid
Sheviak’s bog orchid

Synonyms

Limnorchis aquilonis

Subspecies

none

Genus: Plantanthera
Family: Orchidaceae (orchid)
Order: Asparagales
taxonomic heirarchy

Etymology

Platanthera aquilonis derives its scientific name from Latin and Greek roots. The genus name Platanthera is formed from the Greek words “platys,” meaning “broad,” and “anthera,” meaning “anther.” This combination refers to the broad anthers of the flowers in this genus. The specific epithet aquilonis is Latin, meaning “northern” or “of the north.”

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb



Identification and Information

Platanthera aquilonis, commonly known as the northern green orchid or north wind bog orchid, is a non-showy perennial herb in the Orchidaceae (orchid) family. It grows 5-60 cm tall from a few fibrous roots and a spindle-shaped stem base. It has several arching-spreading, linear-lanceolate leaves along the stem that reduce in size distally, becoming bract-like.

The inflorescence is a cylindrical terminal spike that may be few-flowered or densely-flowered. The flowers are bilaterally symmetric, as in all orchids, and green, yellowish green, or greenish-white, on a resupinate pedicel (twisted 180 degrees so the flower hangs upside-down). It has three petals and three sepals. The two lateral sepals are lanceolate and spreading or bent back. The bottom triangular petal forms a spurred lip. The topmost petals are egg-shaped to lanceolate, while the uppermost sepal forms a hood. The fruit is an ascending to erect cylindrical capsule.

The plant primarily reproduces by self-pollination. The pollinia (structures containing the pollen) rotate forward and downward. This movement positions the pollen masses in direct contact with or above the stigma, enabling self-pollination without needing external pollinators.

While the flowers are usually scentless, those in the far northwest have been observed to emit a sweet, pungent scent (the Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora states that they are odorless in Alaska).


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

No traditional, medicinal, or culinary uses were found.


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Platanthera aquilonis is widely distributed in North America, including Alaska, Canada, and most of the northern United States, extending down the Rocky Mountains into New Mexico and Arizona.

The plant prefers moist soils and is often found in wet meadows, tundra, marshes, fens, and floodplains.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
ClassEquisetopsida
SubclassMagnoliidae
SuperorderLilianae
OrderAsparagales
FamilyOrchidaceae (orchid)
SubfamilyOrchidoideae
TribeOrchideae
SubtribeOrchidinae
GenusPlatanthera (fringed orchid)
SpeciesPlatanthera aquilonis (northern green orchid)

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Brandenburg, D. M. 2010. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. Sterling Publishing. (p. 387)

Classification and Taxonomy

Canadensys. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/6903?lang=en

ITIS. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=894660

USDA NRCS. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=PLAQ2

Uses

none

Map and Distribution

GBIF. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/2798385

NatureServe Explorer. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.154072/Platanthera_aquilonis

Plants of the World Online. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:319330-2

Description and Information

Flora of North America. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Platanthera_aquilonis

Ecological Atlas of Denali’s Flora. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=1468

E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia. (n.d.). Platanthera aquilonis Sheviak. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Platanthera%20aquilonis&redblue=Both&lifeform=7

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