Lesser Butterfly Orchids
This tiny orchid is quite rare but is very delicate and beautiful and was in recently years been a wildflower plant that affords a priority for conservation action.
Lesser Butterfly orchid flowers bloom in a long, loose, cylindrical spike. They have lovely pale yellowy cream flowers, sometimes almost a greenish white.
Protected by Law
All wild orchids are protected by law If You remove or disturb the ground - you can be fined or imprisoned - or both. If you are wanting to move them you need to get a licence from the local council.
Old legend surrounding the lesser butterfly orchid
An old legend has it that Jesus was praying the night before his crucifixion. Angels came down to comfort him, placing themselves in lesser butterfly orchid’s flowers. In memory of that the lesser butterfly orchid’s flower is still in the shape of an angel, shining white in the twilight on summer nights and emitting its strong, perfumed aroma.
The long slender downward curving, spur that carries the nectar flows out behind each little flower of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid. The flowers lengthy central lip is flanked on both sides by a single pointed spreading petal. It is topped by a delicate loose hood of petals and sepals.
The upper sepal and petals form a loose triangular hood above the pollinia, which lie parallel and close together, obscuring the opening into the spur.
Similar Orchid - The Greater Butterfly Orchid - Platanthera chlorantha
There is also a similar Orchid - The Greater Butterfly Orchid, below I have listed a few pointers that might help you distinguish between the two wildflowers
How to Tell them Apart
Greater Butterfly Orchid is Taller
There is another orchid the Greater Butterfly Orchid that can occasionally be seen on the islands. The two orchids are very similar in looks, except that the Greater Butterfly Orchid is altogether a taller plant reaching up to 18inches.
Throats and Pollinia Differ
There are other differences between these two orchids and the lesser butterfly orchid can be identified by looking into the "throat" or spur of the flower. The throat is narrow and closed, with the two pollinia (egg-shaped masses or clumps of pollen) lying parallel and close together. (whereas in the Greater Butterfly Orchid the pollen masses converge ). The spike is also narrower in overall appearance, and in general usually the individual plants are smaller than those of the Greater Butterfly Orchid
Lesser Butterfly Orchid.
Flowers are Whiter
The flowers on the Lesser Butterfly Orchid are generally whiter than Greater Butterfly Orchid
Different Insects Pollinate the Two Individual Types of Orchid
Different types of insect pollinate these two orchids which means that they must smell differently to the insects, although you wont be able to detect the scent difference. Night flying moths particularly like the Lesser Butterfly Orchid, they are attracted by the scent which is strongest in the evening
Greater Butterfly Orchid - Known as Night Violets
Greater Butterfly-orchids used to be called quite fittingly " night violets"
Lesser Butterfly Orchid More Tolerant of Acid
The Lesser butterfly orchid is altogether more tolerant of acid conditions than the Greater Butterfly Orchid and these tiny lesser butterfly orchids can often be found on the grasslands, moors, woods, pastures and heaths and boggy marshy ground, even by ditches.
|Inches and cm sizes are approximate|