Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia)

Perennial
Habenaria bifolia. Orchis bifolia. O. montana.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Butterfly Orchid
Platanthera bifolia
Orchidaceae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    Salep (see above for more details) is very nutritive and demulcent[4]. It has been used as a diet of special value for children and convalescents, being boiled with water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot[4]. Rich in mucilage, it forms a soothing and demulcent jelly that is used in the treatment of irritations of the gastro-intestinal canal[4]. One part of salep to fifty parts of water is sufficient to make a jelly[4]. The tuber, from which salep is prepared, should be harvested as the plant dies down after flowering and setting seed[4].

  • Edible Use

    Tuber – cooked[46, 61, 177]. It is a source of ‘salep’, a fine white to yellowish-white powder that is obtained by drying the tuber and grinding it into a powder[2, 105, 177, 183]. Salep is a starch-like substance with a sweetish taste and a faint somewhat unpleasant smell[4]. It is said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or can be added to cereals and used in making bread etc[5, 100, 183]. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day[100, 115].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[200]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move. Division in autumn. Make sure that you keep plenty of soil with each plant. It is also said to be possible to transplant orchids after they have flowered but whilst they are still in leaf.
Easily grown in a sunny position in a moist loam enriched with leaf mould[42]. Flourishes in almost any soil and situation[1, 42]. Prefers a moderately shady and well-drained though damp position[1]. Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid[230]. The flowers diffuse a most seductive perfume at night and are pollinated by the night hawk moth[245]. Hybridizes freely with several species of the genus Orchis[42].
Most of Europe, including Britain, to N. Africa, N. Asia, the Caucasus.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.