Platanthera clavellata (Small Green Wood Orchid)

Plant Info
Also known as: Green Woodland Orchid, Club-spur Orchid
Family:Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet, acidic soil; swamp forests, peat bogs and sedge meadows
Bloom season:July
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL 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

[photo of flowers] Cream to greenish-white irregular flowers in a loosely packed raceme up to about 2 inches long at the top of the stem. Individual flowers are ¼ inch wide; an upper sepal and 2 petals form an enclosing hood over the flower center, 2 small lateral sepals spread out at the sides. The lower lip is nearly rectangular, marginally 3 lobed. At the back is a long, slender, club shaped spur. Flower sits atop a conspicuous swollen ovary that twists to display the flower horizontally.

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

[photo of leaves] A single principal leaf, oblong, 2 to 5½ inches long and up to 1 inch wide, is attached below mid-stem with 1 to several small bract like leaves widely spaced above it. The stem is smooth and slender, sheathed below.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an ascending capsule about 1/3 inch long.


Early herbarium records had this diminuative slender maypole scattered around the metro but progress took care of them; the last herbarium specimen in Ramsey County was collected in 1917. In 1984 Platanthera clavellata was listed as a State Special Concern species. Small populations are still hiding in St. Louis and Lake counties - the Ely area is as reasonable place as any to poke around for any that are left.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in a wet meadow/bog south of Ely. Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in Chippewa National Forest, Itasca County.


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

Posted by: AALAN - Mora MN
on: 2011-02-07 16:54:15

Nice to know it is an orchid. I have a few of these every spring in my lower yard as it is a back water flood plane. bog area. Mora MN

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