Large Purple Fringed Orchid

Platanthera grandiflora

Ooo-la-la!! Look what I found! While searching for something else, I practically stumbled on this little pink firebomb up in the woods at Mountain Lake. On first glance, I thought it was “just Phlox”, which started to bloom in the woods near Blacksburg recently. Then I took a couple steps closer and nearly fell over with surprise!

This is the kind of flower that flower geeks dream about: rare, exotic-looking…gorgeous. Almost any of the orchids would fit that bill for me, but this one is actually endangered or threatened in several eastern states. This is a rare find.

Large Purple Fringed Orchid blooms in June and July at higher elevations in Southwest Virginia. It grows in forests and meadows, preferring moist areas with lots of light. I found these orchids growing along a wooded mountain trail, not far from a damp seep. Other habitats include riparian areas and moist roadside banks.

As you can see in the photo gallery, the leaves are lance-shaped and get smaller as you go up the stem. There are 2-6 leaves per plant. The flowers are light purple or rose-pink; the lower lip of the flower has 3 distinctive, fringed parts. There is a long, curved spur on the back of each flower. The plant grows from 1 to 2 ft. tall; some of the plants in this series were at least 2 ft. in height, which means they could be seen from a good distance away.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Elena Maza says:

    I’m looking for this particular orchid for my botanical illustration course work and wondered if you’d be so kind as to share details of the location where you found it? I live near Front Royal and need to complete field sketches for my course work. Please get in touch with me via Email. Thanks.

  2. birchnature says:

    What a find! I’m jealous!

  3. Darlene says:

    I also would love to know where to see this beautiful orchid. I am a volunteer for The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resource Defense Council. So I keep the secret and want to preserve and protect what is left of our beautiful natural resources.. I would appreciate your help for this coming spring, summer season. Darlene Kershner

    1. Gloria says:

      Hi Darlene. I wouldn’t be able to give you accurate directions to this plant, but I could show you myself sometime. Get in touch with me in the spring and perhaps we could meet up to see if we can find the plants again.
      Take care,

  4. Hi Gloria – if you ever want to find several different native orchids, visit Cranberry Glades Nature Center and bog in West Virginia. It’s a bit of a drive from Blacksburg, but very rewarding. I’ve seen rose pogonia, grass pink, purple fringed orchid, and several small green orchids. A friend of mine, Charles Garrett, usually gives a native orchid slide show and then a bog walk, around the first weekend in July.

    1. Gloria says:

      Thanks for the tip! I totally believe you when you say it will be rewarding… I just returned from a trip to Nova Scotia and found several bogs and fens that were loaded with orchids in July. I’ll put the Cranberry Glades destination on my calendar! Thanks!

      1. Apparently, Cranberry Glades is very similar in habitat to what you might find much further North. It’s very unique. Maybe we’ll meet in person when you visit?

        1. Gloria says:

          I’d like that!

  5. Steve noll says:

    Pay to report I just spotted a large pink more than purple fringed orchid up near Mountain Lake in Giles county on the path to windrock I wonder if this is the original location reported several years ago it looked healthy and happy

  6. Steve Noll says:

    I just took a look at the original poster about the orchid it’s my friend Gloria! Hello darling

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, I’d love to see these. I can keep your secret! I love photographing wildflowers for my own personal collection. 😊

    I live nearby. Would love to hike with you and find some beauties sometime.

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