Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Tubercled Rein Orchid - Platanthera herbiola   (R. Brown) Lindley
Members of Orchidaceae:
Members of Platanthera with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Orchidaceae
Author(R. Brown) Lindley
DistributionThis taxon, often considered as a variety of Platanthera flava, is listed in Weakley (2018) as a valid species. This is the montane portion of the full species' (i.e., P. flava in the broad sense) range in the state. In NC, it occurs throughout the southwestern third of the Mountains, and is scattered farther northward in that region. It apparently does not occur in the adjacent Piedmont (or only ranges into the foothills); P. flava (strict sense) is found in the central and eastern Piedmont.

This species is the more westerly of the two species, ranging north to Quebec and MN, and then south to GA, TN, and MO -- essentially from the Appalachian Mountains westward.
AbundanceRare to uncommon from Buncombe County southwestward, but quite rare north toward the VA border. This is a State Special Concern species.
HabitatThis species occurs in bogs, seepages, and other wet places, such as in swampy forested sites.
See also Habitat Account for Montane Broadleaf Herbaceous Mires
PhenologyBlooms from May into September, and fruits shortly after blooming.
IdentificationThis orchid is quite similar to Southern Rein Orchid (P. flava) in growth form, as both have a narrow raceme (looking like a spike) of pale green or yellow-green flowers. This species is a bit larger than P. flava, growing up to 2 feet tall, and it has quite conspicuous leaf-like bracts that are much longer than the flowers above them. It has larger and longer stem leaves than does P. flava, and these often cover the stem and reach the bottom of the flower cluster. The flowers are similar to those of P. flava, being very small and facing downward. P. herbiola is also separated from P. flava by the greener lip (instead of yellow-green) and by the flowers being denser in the raceme. Inexperienced biologists will likely overlook this species, as the whole plant looks light green and at a distance it could look like a plantain (Plantago) or some other "non-orchid", even a grass! Thankfully, the plants often grow in a dense stand of several dozen plants, and such a stand should catch the eye.
Taxonomic CommentsProbably more references consider this as just a variety -- Platanthera flava var. herbiola -- than as a good species. Note that nearly all Platanthera species were placed in the genus Habenaria a few decades ago. In fact, RAB (1968) did not list separate varieties, but did mention that the two forms were "variants".

Other Common Name(s)This taxon has a number of common names in use, as might be expected, as P. flava does as well. Other common names include Pale-green Orchid, Tubercled Orchid, Northern Tubercled Bog Orchid. Several of these are the same as for P. flava, which goes against "rules" of common name usage.
State RankS1S2
Global RankG4?T4Q [G4Q]
State StatusSC-V
US Status
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