Orange Crested Orchid

Platanthera cristata (Michx.) Lindl.

Platanthera cristata
Kimberly J. Smith

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

A white-flowered form of this orchid from eastern Long Island has been described as a separate species, Platanthera pallida, but has now been formally recognized as indistinct.

State Ranking Justification

There are seven existing populations in four areas of Long Island. Two populations are ranked good to excellent, but the other four are very small and may not be viable in the long term. This orchid was always rare in New York with only seven historical records but most of them still have natural areas.

Short-term Trends

The two largest populations seem to be stable but the five small populations seem to be stable or declining.

Long-term Trends

This orchid has always been very rare in New York and population numbers have remained about the same over time. Most of the existing populations occur in parks and should remain stable into the foreseeable future.

Conservation and Management


Plants along a roadside are threatened by improper mowing schedules and other more isolated populations are threatened by collection and browsing by deer.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

This species needs disturbance to reduce competition from woody plants or more aggressive herbaceous plants but too much direct disturbance to the plants will reduce or eliminate the population. Its habitat could be disturbed in the non-growing season to open it up for seed germination and colonization but direct disturbance should be prevented during the growing season.

Research Needs

Annual or biannual counts should be undertaken to get better data on population trends.



In New York Crested Fringed Orchis has been found primarily at open, sandy (often, though not always, wet or moist) sites, associated with pitch pine (Pinus rigida). These have included sand dunes and interdunal swales, open pine woods and barrens, and roadsides or firebreaks (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Moist sandy and peaty meadows, marshes, prairies, pine savannas, wet wooded flats, seeping slopes, sphagnum bogs (FNA 2002). Low moist meadows and damp pine woods, especially along the coastal plain, but also in the mountains southward (Gleason and Cronquist 1991).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Maritime dunes* (guide)
    A community dominated by grasses and low shrubs that occurs on active and stabilized dunes along the Atlantic coast. The composition and structure of the vegetation is variable depending on stability of the dunes, amounts of sand deposition and erosion, and distance from the ocean.
  • Maritime freshwater interdunal swales (guide)
    A mosaic of wetlands that occur in low areas between dunes along the Atlantic coast; the low areas (swales) are formed either by blowouts in the dunes that lower the soil surface to groundwater level, or by the seaward extension of dune fields. Water levels fluctuate seasonally and annually. Sedges and herbs are usually the most abundant types of plants. These wetlands may be quite small (less than 0.25 acre).
  • Maritime pitch pine dune woodland* (guide)
    A maritime woodland that occurs on stabilized parabolic dunes. The substrate is wind and wave deposited sand that is usually excessively well-drained and nutrient poor. The community is subject to high winds, sand-blasting, salt spray, and shifting substrate.
  • Pitch pine-heath barrens* (guide)
    A shrub-savanna community that occurs on well-drained, sandy or rocky soils. The most abundant tree is pitch pine and the shrublayer is dominated by heath shrubs.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Acer rubrum
  • Aletris farinosa (white colicroot, unicorn-root)
  • Andropogon glomeratus
  • Andropogon virginicus
  • Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
  • Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry)
  • Calamagrostis
  • Carex barrattii (Barratt's sedge)
  • Carex striata var. brevis
  • Carex swanii (Swan's sedge)
  • Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush)
  • Comptonia peregrina (sweet-fern)
  • Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hair grass)
  • Dichanthelium
  • Dichanthelium acuminatum
  • Euthamia caroliniana (slender flat-topped-goldenrod)
  • Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
  • Hypericum
  • Juncus effusus
  • Lespedeza cuneata (Asian bush-clover)
  • Lobelia nuttallii (Nuttall's lobelia)
  • Lyonia ligustrina
  • Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
  • Myrica pensylvanicum
  • Nyssa sylvatica (black-gum, sour-gum)
  • Osmunda cinnamomea
  • Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
  • Platanthera lacera (ragged fringed orchid)
  • Polytrichum commune
  • Potentilla canadensis (dwarf cinquefoil)
  • Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak, bear oak)
  • Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)
  • Rhynchospora capillacea (hair beak sedge)
  • Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beak sedge)
  • Rubus hispidus (swamp dewberry)
  • Scirpus atrovirens (dark-green bulrush)
  • Scirpus hattorianus (mosquito bulrush)
  • Trientalis borealis
  • Vaccinium angustifolium (common lowbush blueberry)
  • Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)


New York State Distribution

This orchid extended from Queens east through Suffolk County on Long Island, but is presently only known from Suffolk County and considered extirpated in Nassau and Queens counties.

Global Distribution

It is most common along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains from Virginia south to Northern Florida and west to East Texas. Farther north it is rare and scattered from the Delmarva Peninsula through New Jersey, Long Island, and Eastern Massachusetts. It extends inland in the Southeast to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Identification Comments

General Description

Crested Fringed Orchis have a central stalk from 90 centimeters tall, with two to four alternate, lanceolate leaves up to 21 centimeters long, gradually reduced to bracts above. The many showy, orange (Long Island, NY populations ranging to pale yellow) flowers are borne in a dense spike 2 to 13 cm long, the lower end maturing first. The lip is 4 to 8 millimeters long, and has deeply fringed. The spur is slender and from 4 to 10 millimeters long, about half the length of the ovary (FNA 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

These orchids are best identified in flower.

Similar Species

Platanthera ciliaris is the only other yellow or orange-flowered Platanthera present in New York. (Some Long Island, New York Platanthera cristata populations have pale yellow flowers (or even whitish, in cultivation) but not the pure white of P. blephariglottis (FNA 2002)). Platanthera ciliaris is overall a larger plant, with a significantly longer (18-28 mm) spur than that of P. cristata (5-9 mm) and triangular, downward-pointing rostellum lobes directed forward (those of P. cristata are slender and pointed downward).

Best Time to See

The best time to see these plants is when they are in flower, from late July through September.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Orange Crested Orchid flowering and fruiting in New York.

Orange Crested Orchid Images


Orange Crested Orchid
Platanthera cristata (Michx.) Lindl.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Orchidales
          • Family Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)


  • Habenaria cristata (Michx.) R. Br.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York. 723 pp.

Other References

Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 445 pp.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Charles J. Sheviak. 1981. Rare Plants of New York State. Bull No. 445. New York State Museum. Univ. of New York. State Ed. Department Albany, NY.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Vines of Northeastern and North-Central North America. Little, Brown and Company. Boston.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: August 28, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Platanthera cristata. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.