Platanthera praeclara (Western Prairie Fringed Orchid)

Plant Info
Also known as: Great Plains White Fringed Orchid
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Federally Threatened
  • State Endangered
Habitat:sun; moist prairies, calcareous meadows
Bloom season:July
Plant height:16 to 36 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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

[photo of flowers] A large showy raceme of 4 to 35 creamy white, heavily fringed flowers, ¾ inch across by 1¼ inch long. A broad upper sepal and two lateral petals form a wide arching hood above, 2 large lateral sepals are at the sides. The lower lip is three lobed, all 3 lobes fanning out and delicately fringed. A very long slender spur to 1½ inches long is behind the flower.

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

[photo of leaves] 5 to 10 leaves, 3½ to 6 inches long, to 1¼ inches wide, largest and sheathing the stem near the base of the plant, reduced in size to bracts near the flowers. Leaves are generally lanceolate with pointed tips, many parallel veins, and point up. The stem is smooth.


Competing with our state flower, C. reginae for size and spectacular show but unfortuantely nearly gone from the world. 95% of its habitat is now farm field. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid is now a Federally Threatened and Minnesota State Endangered species, with the largest population in the country found in Minnesota. It is similar in appearance to Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, P. leucophaea (also Endangered), but the latter is only found east of the Mississippi River and does not grow in Minnesota. It is also similar in appearance to Ragged Fringed Orchid, P. lacera, but that species has smaller, more greenish flowers, a shorter spur, and is far more common. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid sometimes goes by Habenaria leucophaea var. praeclara, but Habenaria is now widely considered restricted to tropical species and Platanthera temperate zone species.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken open wet meadows on state, private (TNC) and county lands in Polk County


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

Posted by: Randy - Rock County
on: 2014-11-08 23:55:33

I was able to photograph this flower in July 2010 in the "Touch the Sky Prairie" in Rock County, MN. I hope to return someday and find it again as my photo is when the flower was past it's peak.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Scenic By way West of LeRoy
on: 2017-07-11 13:21:52

Today is July 11...these orchids are just in a boggy area of the ditch on the Shooting Star Scenic Byway...I had the honor of doing the population count for the state afew years ago...this is my 8th year of photographing these fantastic bloom is yet to come...only one plant blooming today.

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