Butterfly orchid is a common name for numerous species of orchid, including the genera Platanthera and Psychopsis. Some are grown as ornamental plants because of their attractive flowers.
The Psychopsis genus includes about 5 species of epiphytic orchids that are native to Central and South America. The flowers look like butterflies in that the upper 2 petals are narrow and antenna-shaped, the 2 lateral sepals are more prominent and resemble spotted wings.
The central lip is usually monochrome, similar to the butterfly’s body. The lip is usually yellow, while the remaining sepals and petals are usually orange, yellow, or reddish –brown. A common ornamental species is Psychopsis papilio, and it has several horticultural varieties.
The genus Platanthera consists of around 100 species native to North Africa, Eurasia, and Central and North America.
Well-known species are the small white-flowered orchid (Platanthera bifolia) and the large butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) with larger greenish-white blooms. Both plants have 5 to 15 fragrant flowers arranged on a spike.