A spike of white flowers rises from the coastal grassland like a pale torch, attended by narrow green leaves. The lower lip of each small, fleshy bloom tapers into a protruding, tonguelike point.
This is Sierra bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata), which can be found from the Point Reyes Peninsula to 11,000 feet up in the Sierra. True to its name, it’s generally found in wetlands. You can distinguish it from other white orchids because it does have leaves that grow up its green stem, as well as the spurred lower lip petal. Sierra bog orchid isn’t rare in the state, but it is fairly uncommon in Marin; look for it on Point Reyes and in Potrero Meadows.
The genus Platanthera is one of the largest orchid genera in North America, with a total of 33 different species.