Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small White Fringed Orchid - Platanthera blephariglottis   (Willdenow) Lindley
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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Author(Willdenow) Lindley
DistributionIn recent years, the original "Platanthera blephariglottis" has been split into two species by some references, with the larger form being P. conspicua and the smaller form retaining the P. blephariglottis name. Thus, the exact range of each is somewhat unclear, though the strict sense P. blephariglottis is apparently restricted in NC to the Sandhills and nearby counties, extending rarely into the northeastern part of the Coastal Plain.

This is the northern form of the two "White Fringed Orchids". Weakley (2018) says the range of this species (strict sense) is from eastern Canada west to MI, and south to GA -- generally being absent in the Appalachian Mountains and westward (i.e., no records for WV, KY, and TN on the BONAP map).
AbundanceRare to uncommon in the Sandhills, and very rare elsewhere to the north and northeast. It is apparently absent in the Coastal Plain east of the Sandhills; the larger form occurs in this part of the state, and rarely in the Sandhills. The NCNHP has followed Weakley (2022) is considering the broad sense P. blephariglottis of the past now split into strict sense blephariglottis and the "new" P. conspicua (which see). The NCNHP now has the new State Rank at S2, and a Watch List (W7) status. NOTE: Nature Serve Explorer still shows these two taxa as varieties, with the full species at G5, but with this taxon as G5T4T5; this website uses the G4G5 here, to avoid confusion.
HabitatUnlike the larger form (P. conspicua), which occurs primarily in savannas, this smaller form occurs mainly in sandhill seeps and streamhead pocosin ecotones.
PhenologyBlooms from July to August (September?), and fruits shortly after blooming. Where both forms/taxa occur together, this species blooms somewhat earlier, with P. conspicua blooming in NC mainly in August and September.
IdentificationThis species grows mainly to about 1.5-2 feet tall, with a single stem and two to four long and shiny ascending leaves growing from the lower part of the stem. As with all Platanthera species, one cannot identify them by vegetative parts, so you will need the inflorescence to separate them. In this taxon, there is a rather dense cluster of several dozen white flowers about 3-5 inches tall. Each flower has a long and fringed lip, and a fairly long spur; in this taxon, the spur is mainly 2/3-1 inch long, and the lip curves downward and somewhat back toward the stem. The fringes of the lip are short and rather coarse. P. conspicua is a larger plant, growing 2 feet tall or more, with a flower cluster often 4-6 inches tall, longer spurs, and lips that spread forward. Rare individuals with creamy yellow flowers are hybrids between P. blephariglottis and P. ciliaris.
Taxonomic CommentsAs mentioned in Distribution, the former P. blephariglottis has been split as a good species by some references, including Weakley (2018). Many others, such as the Flora of North America website, list both as varieties only. This smaller and more northern form retains that name, and the larger and more southern form is now P. conspicua. Nearly all Platanthera species were formerly in the genus Habenaria, though only one NC species is still retained in that genus now. Also, older references subsumed P. integrilabia -- the White Fringeless Orchid -- within the former blephariglottis; essentially all references consider that a valid species (and it is of historical occurrence in NC).

Other Common Name(s)White Fringed Orchid (now used for the combined P. blephariglottis and P. conspicua), White-fringed Bog Orchid
State RankS2
Global RankG4G5
State StatusW7
US Status
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USACE-empOBL link
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