Information on Greater Butterfly-orchid

Common Name: Greater Butterfly-orchid
Scientific Name: Platanthera chlorantha
Irish Name: Magairlín mór an fhéileacáin
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


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Greater Butterfly-orchid could sometimes be confused with:

Butterfly-orchid, Lesser ,

Stately and elegant plant of undisturbed pasture, bogland and, usually, calcareous heaths, the Greater Butterfly-orchid grows to a greater height than its little sister, the Lesser Butterfly-orchid. It reaches 50 cm and bears its beautiful creamy-white flowers in a loose, somewhat pyramidal, spike. Each vanilla-scented flower is comprised of two spreading lateral lobes, a long lip which is tinted pale green towards the tip, and the spur. This spur is a nectar-filled tube to attract pollinating moths. The pollen stalks in this flower are arranged, within the flower's opening, in an inverted V whereas those of the Lesser Butterfly-orchid are parallel to each other. Along with its greater height, this feature helps in identification. The plant has a single pair of wide leaves at its base and also a few little stem leaves. A perennial plant, it blooms from May to July. This is a native wildflower and it belongs to the Orchidaceae family.  

I recorded this plant growing in the Burren in 1988 and near Ardrishaig in Scotland in 1993 when I also photographed it. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Butterfly-orchid, Greater
Butterfly-orchid, Greater

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html