Wildflowers of the Adirondacks:
Little Club-spur Orchid (Platanthera clavellata)

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park: Little Club-Spur Orchid on Barnum Bog (18 July 2013).
Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: Little Club-spur Orchid can be found in wetland habitats in the Adirondacks. Little Club-Spur Orchid on Barnum Bog (18 July 2013).

Little Club-spur Orchid (Platanthera clavellata) is a wetland plant that produces greenish-white flowers in summer in the Adirondack Mountains. It is a member of the Orchid (Orchidaceae) Family.

  • The genus name (Platanthera) is derived from the Greek word platys (meaning wide or broad) and anthera (meaning anther) – a reference to the broad anther (the male portion of the flower containing the pollen) affixed to the top of the columnColumn: In orchids, a unique reproductive organ made up of the combined male and female sexual organs of the flower.. Plants in this genus were once assigned to the Habenaria genus; and most older sources still refer to this genus name.
  • The species name (clavellata) is from clava, which means club-like.

The plant is also known as Club-spur Orchid, Little Club-spur Orchis, Northern Club-spur Orchis, Little Club-spur Bog-orchid, Small Green Fringed Orchid, Small Green Wood Orchid, Green Woodland Orchid, Small Green Woodland Orchid, and Small Woodland Orchid.

Identification of Little Club-spur Orchid

The Little Club-spur Orchid is a small perennial plant which grows 6-18 inches tall. It stem is smooth and slender. The leaves are alternate (meaning that they emerge from the stem one at a time, one leaf per node). The plant has a single, oblong leaf, two to 5½ inches in length, located near the middle of the stem, plus several smaller, widely spaced upper leaves.

The flowers are greenish-white or yellowish-white and twisted along the stalk. The six-parted flowers are ¼ inches wide and appear in a spike-like cluster of five to fifteen flowers. The flowers reportedly are pollinated by moths.

In the Adirondacks, this plant blooms usually blooms in late July or early August. A tally of flowering dates for the upland Adirondack areas compiled by Michael Kudish, based on data collected from the early seventies to the early nineties, lists the earliest flower date as 23 July and the median date as 1 August.

Uses of Little Club-spur Orchid

No edible or medicinal uses of this species were found.

Wildlife Value of Little Club-spur Orchid

No wildlife uses of this species were found.

Distribution of Little Club-spur Orchid

The Little Club-spur Orchid can be found throughout the eastern part of the US and Canada. This species is listed as endangered in Florida and Illinois.

Little Club-spur Orchid is found in most counties in the eastern part of New York State, where it is listed as exploitably vulnerable. Its presence has been confirmed in all counties within the Adirondack Park Blue Line except Clinton County.

Habitat of Little Club-spur Orchid

Little Club-spur Orchids grow in wet situations, including acid bogs. This species may also be seen in previously disturbed wet open habitats, such as road banks and ditches.

A convenient place to see Little Club-spur Orchid is Barnum Bog at the Paul Smith's College VIC, where it can be seen from the boardwalk on the Boreal Life Trail. Look for it growing near other bog-dwelling plants such as Cottongrass, Marsh Cinquefoil, Pitcher Plant, Rose Pogonia, White Fringed Orchid, and Sheep Laurel.


Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (The Chauncy Press, 1992), p. 235.

New York Flora Association.  New York Flora Atlas. Little Club-spur Orchid. Platanthera clavellata (Michx.) Luer.  Retrieved 30 April 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. Small Green Wood Orchid. Platanthera clavellata (Michx.) Luer. Retrieved 30 April 2017.

Flora of North America. Platanthera clavellata (Michaux) Luer. Retrieved 5 May 2017.  

NatureServe Explorer. Online Encyclopedia of Life.  Platanthera clavellata - (Michx.) Luer. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

New England Wildflower Society. Go Botany.  Platanthera clavellata (Michx.) Luer.  Little Club-spur Bog-orchid.  Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

New York State. Adirondack Park Agency. Preliminary List of Species Native Within the Adirondack Park Listed Alphabetically by Scientific Name and Sorted by Habit. Volume 1. Updated 10.23.2006, p. 31. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Connecticut Botanical Society.  Green Wood Orchid.  Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

University of Wisconsin. Flora of Wisconsin.  Platanthera clavellata (Michx.) Luer. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

Minnesota Wildflowers. Platanthera clavellata (Small Green Wood Orchid). Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Platanthera clavellata (Michx.) Luer. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

Doug Ladd. North Woods Wildflowers (Falcon Publishing, 2001), p. 243.

Lawrence Newcomb. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (Little Brown and Company, 1977), pp. 44-45.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers. Northeastern and North-central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968) pp. 16-17.

National Audubon Society. Field Guide to Wildflowers. Eastern Region. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), p. 661.

William K. Chapman. Orchids of the Northeast: A Field Guide (Syracuse University Press, 1997), pp. 159-160.

Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 248.

Donald D. Cox. A Naturalist's Guide to Wetland Plants. An Ecology for Eastern North America (Syracuse University Press, 2002), p. 52.

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park

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