Greater butterfly-orchid

Greater Butterfly-orchid

©Philip Precey

Greater Butterfly-orchid

©Jim Higham

Greater butterfly-orchid

Scientific name: Platanthera chlorantha
The Greater butterfly-orchid is a tall orchid of hay meadows, grasslands and ancient woodlands. It has whitish-green flowers that have spreading petals and sepals - a bit like the wings of a butterfly.

Species information


Height: 20-40cm

Conservation status

Classified as Near Threatened on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain.

When to see

May to July


The Greater butterfly-orchid is a distinctive plant of hay meadows, grasslands and ancient woodlands on chalk soils.
Its flower spike can grow quite tall, displaying up to 30 whitish-green flowers in a loose cluster from May to July. The spreading sepals and petals of the flowers look a bit like the wings of a butterfly.

How to identify

The Greater butterfly orchid has a tall flower spike with loosely clustered, whitish-green flowers, each with spreading sepals and petals. It has a pair of broad, shiny, elliptical and spotless leaves at the base of its stem. The very similar Lesser Butterfly-orchid holds its two pollen-bearing structures inside its flowers parallel and much closer together.


Widespread, but most common in Southern England.

Did you know?

The flowers of the Greater butterfly-orchid produce a strong scent at night, attracting night-flying moths that pollinate it.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland and woodland habitats sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. Careful grazing with traditional breeds, hay-cutting at the right time, scrub clearance and coppicing are just some of the ways grasslands and woodlands are kept in good condition. By volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you'll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.