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Pale Green Orchid (Platanthera flava var. herbiola)

Life history

Species overview

Pale Green Orchid (Platanthera flava var. herbiola), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found in a variety of habitats, including moist prairies, sedge meadows, floodplain forests, river banks and ditches. Blooming occurs early June through early August; fruiting occurs early July through late August. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early August.

Synonyms: Habenaria flava var. herbiola, Habenaria herbiola


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Lip with an erect tubercule on the upper side, below the middle; stem leafy; congested spike with elongate bracts.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence a congested spike with elongate bracts; flowers sessile, greenish-yellow or green, 5 to 6 mm wide; lip deflexed, 4 to 6 mm, often irregular on the margin, bearing a conspicuous, fin-like extension on the upper side just below the middle, and usually with a small lateral lobe on each side at the base; spur 3 to 6 mm.
  • Fruit characteristics: Capsules erect, more or less sessile and tapering on both ends, glabrous.
  • Leaf characteristics: Cauline; lower leaves well developed, lance-linear to lanceolate or lance-elliptic, to 20 cm long and 5 cm wide; upper leaves much reduced or bract-like.


  • Blooming phenology: early June through early August
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through late August
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Many and varied; most frequently Carex spp., Cornus stolonifera, Platanthera lacera, P. clavellata, Drosera rotundifolia, Carex stricta, Solidago spp., Onoclea sensibilis, Euthamia graminifolia, Polygonum sagittatum.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Pale Green Orchid (Platanthera flava var. herbiola). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Platanthera flava var. herbiola in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4?T4Q
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in a variety of habitats, including moist prairies, sedge meadows, floodplain forests, river banks and ditches.
  • Soils: Moist to wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Pale Green Orchid. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Pale Green Orchid. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • This species is likely sensitive to water quality. Following BMPs around streams and buffering associated drainages will reduce eutrophication and prevent water quality degradation.
  • Maintain and restore open habitat through selective clearing and brushing.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.


Pale Green Orchid Photo.

Photo © Chris Noll.

Pale Green Orchid Photo.

Photo © Corey Raimond.

Pale Green Orchid Photo.

Photo © Nancy Thomas.

Pale Green Orchid Photo.

Photo © J. Balaban.

Pale Green Orchid Photo.

The tubercle, or small bump, at the top of the lip is a very diagnostic characteristic of pale green orchid.

Photo © Chris Noll.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition