Greater Butterfly-orchid

©Philip Precey

Greater Butterfly-orchid

©Jim Higham

Greater butterfly-orchid

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Scientific name: Platanthera chlorantha
The Greater butterfly-orchid is a tall orchid of hay meadows, grasslands and ancient woodlands. It has whitish-green flowers that have spreading petals and sepals - a bit like the wings of a butterfly.

Top facts

Stats

Height: 20-40cm

Conservation status

Classified as Near Threatened on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain.

When to see

May to July

About

The Greater butterfly-orchid is a distinctive plant of hay meadows, grasslands and ancient woodlands on chalk soils.
Its flower spike can grow quite tall, displaying up to 30 whitish-green flowers in a loose cluster from May to July. The spreading sepals and petals of the flowers look a bit like the wings of a butterfly.

What to look for

The Greater butterfly orchid has a tall flower spike with loosely clustered, whitish-green flowers, each with spreading sepals and petals. It has a pair of broad, shiny, elliptical and spotless leaves at the base of its stem. The very similar Lesser Butterfly-orchid holds its two pollen-bearing structures inside its flowers parallel and much closer together.

Where to find

Widespread, but most common in Southern England.

Did you know?

The flowers of the Greater butterfly-orchid produce a strong scent at night, attracting night-flying moths that pollinate it.