The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 13, 2004


Ragged fringed orchid

photo by Tom Brownrigg
Name: Platanthera lacera or ragged fringed orchid, a.k.a. green fringed orchid. It has been re-classified into another genus so in older books you will find it under Habeneria lacera. The new genus name, Platanthera, comes from Greek terms meaning "wide anther." The species name, lacera, is Latin and means 'torn.' Collectively, the orchids in the genus Platanthera, are referred to as rein orchids, fringe orchids and bog orchids.

When and where seen: Tom Brownrigg spotted this native orchid in the Towle Field on August 1. He showed it to me and found several more plants on August 4, by which time they had almost finished flowering and were more ragged than normal.

Identification: The plants are about two feet tall with a narrow upright habit, and the flowers are tightly packed on a terminal spike about six inches long. The flowers are pretty, and yet the pale color with tinges of green and yellow, the ragged edges, and the delicate state make me want to call this the hangover orchid. The leaves are alternate, somewhat lanceolate, and tend to sheath the single stalk. The plants in the Towle Field were so closely surrounded by other grassland plants that the leaves were not really noticeable. The flower spike, with 15 to 20 flowers, stood out above the surrounding plants.

Habitat: The ragged fringed orchid is said to favor swamps and marshes but these were growing in the upper part of the Towle Field where it is not particularly wet. Tom has found them other years in the lower part of the field where it is much more damp.

Pollination: The flowers are not large, bright or showy. At night, they emit a fragrance attractive to moths. Night-flying sphinx moths provide the pollination service.

References: Carol H. Woodward and H. W. Rickett, New York Botanical Garden's Field Guide to Common Wildflowers of the Northeastern United States; Dept. of Biology at University of Wisconsin at Madison ( and search on platanthera.)

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged from everyone. Last week I saw King Alfred's Cakes (a fungus) and Queen Anne's Lace (a flowering plant). What are you finding? Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School Street Carlisle MA 01741 or to

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito