More Native Orchids…Whorled Pogonia

There are about thirty native orchids in Georgia and we actually have a few in the woods surrounding my subdivision in north Bartow County. If you read several of my previous posts, and you should, you may remember that one way to tell orchids apart is by their leaf arrangement. Several do not show any leaves when they are blooming; a few have one or two leaves on their stems; and, others have very distinctive leaf patterns or arrangements. Such is the topic of this article – the Whorled Pogonia. There are two varieties – the Large Whorled Pogonia – Isotria verticillata – and the Small Whorled Pogonia – Isotria Medeoloides. Both are uncommon in Georgia and the small one is actually on the endangered plant list.

Usually five whorled leaves – sometimes 4 and up to seven Maroon stem and very large maroon sepals.

Isotria verticillata, commonly called Large Whorled Pogonia, is found throughout the central and eastern United States, from Texas to Maine, and in Ontario. It has a purplish brown stem and 5 leaves which form a whorled ring around the upper part of the stem. The leaves are green on the upper surface, and occasionally greyish blue or green on the bottom surface. It produces 1-2 flowers with purple-brown sepals, yellowish green petals, and a yellow-green to white labellum, which is often striped with purple. It can be distinguished from I. medeoloides by its larger size and its purple, instead of green, sepals. It is known to form extensive clonal groups and can be found in mesic to dry forests and woodlands, and occasionally in bogs

The Small Whorled Pogonia has the same leaf arrangement but there is no hint of maroon on stems or sepals – also sepals are much smaller. It is very rare in Georgia.
The blossom of the rare Small Whorled Pogonia Orchid is yellowish-green with no hint of purple or maroon.
on the Large Whorled Pogonia Orchid, the long sepals are tinged in maroon. Note that the white Labellum (insect Landing Strip) has purple tinges also. Now you can easily tell them apart.
The Rose Pogonia can occasionally be found in Georgia. It does not have whorled leaves and has a distinctive fringed labellum with a touch of yellow.
A large colony of Large Whorled Pogonia in the north Georgia mountains. Imagine what a great find this would be if they were blooming!
Not all whorled leaves are Pogonia Orchids as this Whorled Loosestrife demonstrates.

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