Platanthera leucophaea

Common Names:
Eastern prairie fringed orchid, prairie fringed orchid, prairie orchis, prairie white-fringed orchid, white-fringed orchid
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Marlin L. Bowles
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Chicago Botanical Garden

The conservation of Platanthera leucophaea is fully sponsored.
Marlin L. Bowles contributed to this Plant Profile.


P. leucophaea is one of the largest and showiest of the native North American orchids. It is one of at least 200 North American orchid species, and is currently listed as Federally Threatened. This species has declined in the United States by more than 70 percent from original county records. This decline is due mainly to habitat loss for cropland and pasture. The 30 percent of original populations that remain are threatened by non-native species, illegal collection, and continued habitat loss. Most remaining populations are small (fewer than 50 plants), and only about 20 percent of these have adequate protection and management. The species is also found in Canada, but is now known from only 12 populations. (USFWS 1999, Brownell 1984)

Eastern prairie fringed orchid is a perennial orchid, with an upright leafy stem extending up to 40 inches high from an underground tuber. Its leaves sheath the stem, and are 2-8 inches long, elliptical to lance-shaped, and progressively larger toward the stem base. The inflorescence extends above the leaves, with 5-40 creamy white flowers subtended by lance-shaped bracts. The flowers are distinguished by a 3-parted fringed lip 1.5-3 cm long and a nectar spur 1-2 inches long.

This species has a close relative, Platanthera praeclara, which occurs to the west of the Mississippi River. This species is aptly named the Western prairie fringed orchid, and each have somewhat different flower morphologies, likely because they evolved in the presence of different pollinator species. (Sheviak and Bowles 1986)

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research