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    Botanists have had considerable difficulty in placing some of our regional Orchids in their proper genus. For instance, the Platanthera species shown on this page have over the past decades been placed in Habenaria and Limnorchis. Some species  that in the past were thought to be found in the Four Corners region are now know to occur only in distant areas. All of the species within the Habenaria genus, for instance, are now known to occur only in the sub-tropics and tropics.

    Several of our Orchids are very similar. To determine the species it takes a careful observation of a number of characteristics, especially the overall color, the shape and length of the lip and spur, and the scent.

    For more information on identifying and appreciating Orchids of the Four Corners states, click for Scotty Smith's "Orchids of Colorado". Scotty's widely praised article includes photographs, line drawings, and descriptive information.

    For detailed information about all the Orchids of North America, see the Flora of North America.

    No matter what the scientific name, various Orchids called "Bog Orchids" are very common in the western San Juans. As you drive any forest road look in the wet ditch at the side and very soon you will find one or several of the Green Bog Orchid species. As you walk trails, stop and examine the edges of even tiny rivulets that you cross. Again, you will often find the Green Bog Orchids. Use a hand lens to appreciate their beauty.

Please, never pick or attempt to transplant 
Orchids (or any other) wild plant. 

Click to purchase plants from legitimate plant nurseries.
Many Orchids are endangered.
Orchid habitat is very specialized.
Orchid pollination is very specialized.
Orchid germination is very specialized.
Admire plants in the wild and let them live.

 

    Stop at wet areas along mountain roads and trails during June, July, and August. Look carefully.  Often a rather tall green Orchid will materialize.  And where there is one there are almost always more.  Their overall green mass blends into the greenery of wet areas but they are set apart by their whorl of tiny green/white flowers around the twisted, stout flower stalk that arises from large, often vertical leaves.

   For great drawings of P. aquilonis and P. huronensis, click to see the Flora of North America.

   These Orchids may be rather difficult to identify to exact species, but they are very easy to admire.

   Several Platanthera Orchids are shown below. The genus name dates to John Lindley's 1835 Genera and Species of Orchidaceous Plants. "Platanthera" is from Greek for “wide anthers”.

Platanthera aquilonis

Platanthera aquilonis. (Green Bog Orchid). Synonyms: Platanthera hyperborea, Limnorchis aquilonis, Habenaria hyperborea. 
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Blooming information withheld to protect the Orchids.

Scotty Smith tells us that P. aquilonis has a "slightly sweet smell to no aroma". The petals, sepals, and lip are light green to yellow green and the lip has a very narrow base, then widens a bit, and then gradually tapers to the tip. The spur is cylindrical and usually shorter than the length of the lip.

The Flora of North America descriptions of P. aquilonis and P. huronensis indicate that in almost all respects P. aquilonis is smaller than P. huronensis :

Height to 60 cm vs. height to 100 cm,
Leaves to 23 cm long and 4 cm wide vs. leaves to 30 cm long and 7 cm wide,
Lip to 6 mm long and 1.5 mm wide vs. lip to 12 mm long and 4 mm wide,
Spur to 5 mm long vs. spur to 12 mm long.

Charles Sheviak renamed this species in 1999. "Aquilonis" is the Latin for "the north wind" or “of the north” referring to the plant's range.

Platanthera aquilonis

Platanthera aquilonis. (Green Bog Orchid). Synonyms: Platanthera hyperborea, Limnorchis aquilonis, Habenaria hyperborea. 
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Looking so much like an Orchid flower, the Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) waits.

Platanthera aquilonis

Platanthera aquilonis. (Green Bog Orchid). Synonyms: Platanthera hyperborea, Limnorchis aquilonis, Habenaria hyperborea.
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

 

And then the spider is rewarded by a fly meal.

 

For quite some time, I had the fly at left identified as a bee.  I changed that identification after I received an email from Kelli Larsen, an undergraduate Colorado State student majoring in Botany with an Entomology minor.  Kelli told me about the critters in the photo at left:

First, the spider is a female Goldenrod spider, Misumena vatia (also known as a Flower Spider or Red-Spotted Crab Spider). Crab Spiders, in general, are ambush predators (my favorite kind!). They just sit patiently on a flower and wait for their meal to come to them. As for the fly, I'd say it's Eristalis tenax, a Drone Fly, which is similar to a Honey Bee in size, coloration, and even behavior. These characteristics help ward off most predators, as these flies are harmless and defenseless nectar and pollen feeders. Drone Flies are part of a larger family of bee and wasp mimics which make up the family Syrphidae.

Thanks Kelli.

 

Platanthera huronensis

Platanthera huronensis. (Huron Bog Orchid). Synonyms: Platanthera hyperborea, Limnorchis huronensis, Habenaria huronensis, Habenaria hyperborea. 
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Blooming information withheld to protect the Orchids.

Platanthera huronensis

Platanthera huronensis. (Huron Bog Orchid). Synonyms: Platanthera hyperborea, Limnorchis huronensis, Habenaria huronensis, Habenaria hyperborea.
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Scotty Smith tells us that P. huronensis has a "nice sweet aroma, faint to distinct". The petals, sepals, and lip are light green to whitish-green, and the spur (unfortunately not visible in the photograph) is whitish-green. The lip (there is a good view of it hanging down in the center of the photograph) is lanceolate, broadest at the base and gradually narrowing to the tip. "The spur is cylindrical and club like and fully rounded at the bottom" and is about as long as the lip.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Platanthera aquilonis

Range map for Platanthera huronensis