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Nodding Pogonia Orchid, Triphora trianthophora
Photo by Megan James. All rights reserved.

Nodding Pogonia Orchids

Triphora trianthophora

Nodding Pogonia Orchids are a cryptic species - that is they remain hidden underground until they pop up in the late summertime to bloom. Like all orchids these plants are dependent on a symbiotic relationship with a fungus with whom they share water and nutrients. Should the fungus die, the orchid is doomed as well, since the orchid is apparently incapable of living without its partner.

While Nodding Pogonia Orchids have leaves containing chlorophyll they're small, nearly vestigial and apparently contribute very little to the orchid's maintenance. Their time above ground is so brief, and the areas they inhabit so dark, that the orchids cannot possibly rely on its leaves for more than a tiny fraction of its food supply. This is one of the orchid species (and there are many species with similar behavior) that rely almost exclusively on their fungal partner for most (if not all) of their nutritional requirements.

And while it is often abundant in the restricted areas where it occurs, the Nodding Pogonia Orchid is listed as endangered in Illinois. Like all of our native orchids these plants are impossible to transplant successfully to the home garden. So resist any inclination to do so and enjoy them where they belong - in our forests and fields.

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The information on this page is tailored to Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri

Copyright © 2005 Jim Jung