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U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

Cleistes bifaria range map. Cleistes bifaria range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Cleistes bifaria A rare two flowered form of Cleistes bifaria.  Photo by Jim Fowler.

Cleistes bifaria Cleistes bifaria is a beautiful orchid to come across in the wild. Photo by Jim Fowler.

Cleistes bifaria In this image note the landing pad and nectar guides provided for a pollinator to light upon and find the nectar reward. Photo by Jim Fowler.

Small Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)

By Fred Huber

To many, the small spreading pogonia is one of the most striking orchids. This perennial plant has a wide-spreading underground network of tough, fibrous roots. The flower stem has a single leaf found midway up the stem. The stem can reach fifteen inches tall and it bears a single flower with a small floral bract underneath. The flower resembles a narrow tube with three sepals that are spread behind the lip and petals. The flower can be white, pink, and purple in color. In addition, the small spreading pogonia can give off a light vanilla scent.

The small spreading pogonia is a terrestrial plant that is native to the southeast of the United States. It inhabits savannas, meadows, and openings in oak or pine woodlands with moist soil. In addition, it can be found in mountain habitats with dry, acidic soil. The flower blooms in April to May in coastal plain regions and in June in mountain habitats.

It is adapted to fire and benefits from prescribed fires that reduce overstory trees and shrubs maintain these open conditions.

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia have been actively managing small spreading pogonia habitat with great success.

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