Platanthera psycodes (Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid)

Plant Info
Also known as: Small Purple Fringed Orchis
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist woods, swamps, marshes, wet meadows, shorelines
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:1 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Lavender to rose-purple (rarely white) irregular flowers, loosely to densely packed in a spike-like raceme up to 10 inches long at the top of the stem. Individual flowers are ½ to ¾ inch long; 3 small petal-like sepals form a hood over the 2 pollen sacs, 2 small lateral petals spread out at the sides. The lower lip is white at the base and distinctly 3 lobed, the tips of each lobe shallowly to deeply fringed, with the middle lobe largest. At the back is a long, slender, curving, purplish spur.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are generally oval to elliptic with pointed tips, toothless, hairless, sheathing the stem, and become progressively smaller as they ascend the stem. At the base of the plant leaves are up to 8½ inches long and 2¾ inches wide; they are reduced to bracts near the flowers. Leaves are alternately attached on the smooth, green stem


While the Goodyera orchids appear to be perpetually in song, the Platanthera (fringed orchids) appear to me to be perpetually dancing. Minnesota is at the western edge of the range for Purple Fringed Orchid; it is most likely to be found in forests and wetlands from the northern edge of the Metro to north central counties and the Arrowhead, as well as the southeast corner of the state.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Franconia, Chisago County, and along a county road in Cass County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in northern Aitkin County. Photos courtesy Keith Myrom taken in Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Petyer
on: 2010-02-13 19:08:08

This fancy flower has fickle colored eyes and tresses, I say they take to flight quite easily in their dancing.

Posted by: Jim - Voyageur's Nat'l Park, Kettle Falls Hotel
on: 2010-07-12 22:07:05

Very nice specimens on the road from the hotel to the Kettle Falls dam. Other nice flowers nearby, including Heal All.

Posted by: Barb - Two Harbors, MN
on: 2011-05-04 09:21:21

I found several plants in the ditch area of Flood Bay Road last summer. It was the first time I noticed them and a pleasant surprise. They are a "happy" looking flower!

Posted by: Rick - Marcell Exp Forest & Cass Co, Big Rice Lake, Hwy 6
on: 2012-07-21 07:01:29

Enchantingly beautiful

Posted by: Pat - Cass co., just north of Pillager
on: 2012-07-26 00:07:24

I found these growing in a field just north of Pillager. There seemed to be quite a lot of them scattered over a large area.

Posted by: Duane - southern Kanabec County -- Grass Lake Township
on: 2013-08-05 17:17:04

Found this orchid on our property a few years back -- this year 2 new spots.

Posted by: John - Mille Lacs, Kathio State Park
on: 2013-08-07 19:24:45

Single specimen in full bloom just a few yards down the trail from the parking lot just past the entrance station. (Trail leads to a hike-in campground but it is a very nice loop past beaver pond, red pine stand, etc.)

Posted by: Anne - Wing River Township, Wadena County
on: 2013-08-12 15:46:42

A few specimens were found in a lowland sedge meadow adjacent to a jack pine stand in loamy sand soil.

Posted by: Mark - Boundary Waters
on: 2013-08-17 01:19:19

Saw two specimens growing on a portage into Thomas Lake and another on the portage into burned are of Lake Three out of Ely. This was on August 21st and 22nd.

Posted by: darla - beaver bay.
on: 2014-07-26 19:51:45

Wondering if these are rare and protected. I've found a few different types of orchids on our land. Now to illness we are being foreclosed on and afraid they will all be destroyed.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-07-27 10:45:26

Darla, purple fringed orchids are actually fairly common in the state, but having said that, we believe all native plants, not just orchids, are becoming ever more rare and deserving of protection. Hopefully whoever ends up owning the land will have a similar appreciation for and interest in preserving what's left of our natural heritage.

Posted by: C. Fuller - Breezy Point
on: 2014-07-29 23:37:38

Found one in the ditch by my house today! Very excited. Wood edge sandy soil.

Posted by: Kathy - Dalbo Township of Isanti County
on: 2014-07-31 11:03:04

Beautiful purple fringed orchid in the ditch by our mailbox. I was so thrilled! Is there a company where these types of flowers can be purchased?

Posted by: Lindsey - Boundary Waters Canoe Area
on: 2014-08-16 14:37:04

Found about six plants right at the edge of a portage on the day we traveled from Insula Lake to Ima Lake.

Posted by: Bob - along Superior Hiking Trail near Two Harbors
on: 2014-08-22 13:23:42

8 beautiful plants in full bloom along the Superior Hiking Trail just east of Hwy 2 July 27, 2014

Posted by: Fred - Greaney, MN
on: 2015-07-17 09:54:38

We have a lot of these orchids in our wet meadows and along the driveway. In Greaney near Orr, MN.

Posted by: Marty - Helga Township, Hubbard County
on: 2015-08-11 08:18:24

There are two of these growing on our property. Strangely, they are growing upland on dry sandy soil.

Posted by: Karen - Mower County
on: 2016-07-24 19:46:30

on 7-24-2016 Found 3 of these blooming in the ditch near LeRoy MN. They are about a half mile from a 20 something population of White Fringed prairie orchids. Beautiful!!

Posted by: Fred S - Gheen
on: 2017-07-24 11:47:17

They are all over our meadow in Greaney, MN. They prefer wet sites.

Posted by: Tim P - Minneopa State Park, Blue Earth County
on: 2017-07-26 10:03:43

Seems like an isolated population according to the range map. Blooms at the end of July in a wet and shady spot next to the RR tracks. Have seen up to 30 individuals.

Posted by: Amy - Between Brainerd and Pillager
on: 2017-08-05 19:57:58

So excited! I discovered two plants in separate locations within a half mile of each other. First time I have seen these beautiful flowers in the wild!

Posted by: Kal - Moose Lake, MN
on: 2017-08-06 18:12:58

Saw one individual in full bloom in a shady ditch next to the Soo Line Trail.

Posted by: Cathy - Lutsen
on: 2017-08-12 13:40:34

These grow in a wet area on Cook County Road 34 in Lutsen.

Posted by: Gretchen - Little Webb Lake, Cass County
on: 2019-07-27 08:27:59

Found one in full bloom today at the Little Webb Lake boat launch in Hackensack.

Posted by: Brandon Sutton - Embarrass
on: 2019-07-29 14:07:47

Both purple and white varieties grow along the driveway in white spruce plantation at my parents' home. I've never seen these here in Embarrass, especially so close to the driveway.

Posted by: Elaine - Southern Isanti County
on: 2019-08-04 08:47:49

Found a group of these today by our pond in Southern Isanti County.

Posted by: Sherrie Hood - Mickey Elverum Bog Walk as you enter Orr MN
on: 2020-07-12 17:48:07

July 9, 2020 There was a plethora of the Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes) shortly as you enter the bog walk.All in full bloom.

Posted by: Eva Knudsen - Oak Grove
on: 2020-07-17 08:42:50

just found one on my property in the rock pile. Northern Anoka County

Posted by: Joe - Little falls
on: 2020-10-16 08:06:08

I found a single plant growing on our property. Is there any chance of it spreading or does it require more than one plant for proper pollination and how does it happen that one plant just shows up without any other specimens anywhere near?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-10-16 09:45:32

Joe, it should persist and perhaps spread on its own. As for how it arrived in the first place, I just recall a talk on native orchids that Welby Smith, the State Botanist, gave some years ago. He jokingly said orchids can produce copious amounts of seed, which is dust-like and can travel aerially for even hundreds of miles; there is so much orchid seed in the atmosphere it's a wonder we aren't all choking on it. :-) In any case, if it likes the spot where it eventually lands it will germinate.

Posted by: Sarah Johnson - River Falls WI
on: 2021-07-16 08:47:22

I know I'm not MN... But live so cluse and this is the best forum I've found on this species. I just found several in a ditch. I am sure they will be mowed off when the ditches are mowed soon. Is there a best practice for moving them? Also, can the blooms be picked and the plant survive? Would it be best to pick the blooms if transplanted so the energy goes into the root system? I just want to save these beauties from the mowers!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-16 09:08:17

Sarah, orchids have special relationships with soil fungi so the best chance of rescue success would be to take a big chunk of dirt along with the plant. I would still discourage you from taking these plants without permission and wouldn't worry too much about mowing. We've seen orchids in road ditches all over Minnesota. The ones you found have likely been there for years already and survived.

Posted by: LeAnn Plinske - Northland Arboretum
on: 2021-07-25 18:19:26

Found one cluster blooming near Whiskey Creek pond in the Northland Arboretum.

Posted by: Tim Pulis - Mankato
on: 2022-07-26 18:24:09

There is an isolated population at Minneopa State Park. It is in a swampy area kept wet by a spring from the hillside. There are about a dozen plants and are at peak bloom on July 25th, 2022. There bloom is most consistent year to year timing wise.

Posted by: Kim - Cook County, side road off the Gunflint Trail
on: 2022-07-31 11:16:44

A single plant; my first time seeing this species.

Posted by: Julie Bittinger - Arrowhead Superior hiking trail 1/2 mile east of Cramer Rd
on: 2022-08-01 17:42:55

Small group in a moist area right next to the trail. Mixed woods. I knew they were special as soon as I saw them.

Posted by: Molly A Nelson - Blue Earth County
on: 2023-10-19 09:47:09

These orchids occur at Minneopa State Park in Blue Earth County. This population is more southwestern than the range map indicates so I just wanted to mention them.

Posted by: Thomas Oots - Austin
on: 2024-06-15 12:34:07

Happened to photograph South of Wild Indigo SNA in Wolf Creek Wetland Wildlife Area NE of Austin. Date of photo 7/21/2023.

Posted by: STEPHEN J WILLIAMS - Mower county
on: 2024-07-11 12:14:59

Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid have started to bloom on our farm in Mower County. 7/11/2024

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