Platanthera hookeri (Hooker's Orchid)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; upland pine or mixed forest, coniferous swamps|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||8 to 16 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A spike-like raceme of 6 to 25 green to yellowish, irregular, bractless flowers at the top of the stem. Flowers are about 1 inch long from tip of upper petal to tip of the long spur at the back. The upper sepal is oval, tapered to a lance-like tip, with the two smaller, more crescent to lance-shaped upper petals forming a hood. The oblong lateral sepals are sharply folded back against the stalk (ovary) and spur. The lance shaped lower petal opens down and out with the tip curling sharply up. The long, straight spur projects down and back and is tapered to a point. The whole profile resembles the toothy maw of a small flying serpent.
Hooker's Orchid is relatively common in a variety of habitats in northern Minnesota though its size, profile and color can make it difficult to spot. It is truly rare in southern Minnesota, preferring steep wooded slopes and cool exposures. Land use, deforestation and invasive species will likely extirpate this species from the SE part of the state. The leaves resemble those of Large Round-leaved Orchid (Platanthera orbiculata), which has flowers with a club-shaped spur, a downward pointing lower petal, and a small leafy bract at the base of the flower stalk. The common name Hooker's Orchid comes not from the hooked shape of the lower petal, but from botanist Sir William Jackson Hooker.
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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Savanna Portage State Park, Aitkin County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?