This is one of the easier Platantheras to identify since its 1 cm flowers are whitish in color and of a different shape from P. dilatata, aquilonis, huronensis, stricta and such species. It is also much smaller in plant size, rarely more than 30 cm tall.
It can also be identified by the fact that it has only one leaf near the base of the plant and by the fact that it is often found in woodlands rather than open marshy areas. There is a smaller, fewer-flowered subspecies, but that is confined to northern Alaska and Eurasia.
The species is found across Canada and in the United States only in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Massachusetts, and the upper Great Lakes region. It increases in numbers the farther north one traces it, being rare in the southern parts of its range.