Triphora trianthophora Alfred Schotz

Triphora trianthophora
Alfred Schotz

Class
Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Family
Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)
State Protection
Threatened
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
S2
Global Conservation Status Rank
G3G4

Summary

Did you know?

A population of this orchid was recently found in Cayuga County at the exact spot where it was previously collected in 1919. It may be underreported in the state because the time when it is blooming and visible is so short (typically the whole population flowers synchronously, and flowers last only one day) and it may not bloom every year. The flowers do not have nectar and may bloom all at once to ensure pollination before the pollinators learn to avoid flowers with no reward. According to one botanist, this synchronicity apparently extends over great areas, because during 1990 Triphora was observed flowering on the exact same day in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.

State Ranking Justification

There are nine existing populations but two of them are small. This plant is very difficult to survey because of the limited time it blooms so it is expected that more populations will be found. There are 37 historical populations.

Short-term Trends

Numbers of plants are probably stable but only a couple of occurrences have been monitored over the short term. The flowering biology of this plant makes it difficult to assess trends.

Long-term Trends

There are many more historical records than current known locations so it appears that this orchid has been declining. However, populations are difficult to survey because the window of opportunity to see the plants is so small.

Conservation and Management

Threats

No current threats are known for this species since little is known about their natural history here. Populations occur in areas where there is little development.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Sites should be monitored to determine threats and health trends.

Research Needs

Research is needed to determine the factors affecting bloom time and frequency. The effect of deer browse, if any, should be studied. Physical and chemical parameters of their preferred sites should be studied to help locate additional populations.

Habitat

Habitat

An ephemeral plant of dry to moist areas of beech-maple mesic forests, in moist leaf-mold pockets of mixed hardwood forests, hemlock-northern hardwood forests within shale ravine systems, deep mucky soil under yellow birch, sandy woods within the Great Lakes Plains, and white cedar-tamarack swamps (New York Natural Heritage Program 2004). Dry-mesic to mesophytic forests over sandstone or limestone, sandy oak-mixed hardwood forests, seasonally wet and sandy flatwoods, Great Lakes dune forests, coniferous forests, tamarack swamps, rhododendron thickets, floodplain forests, wet muck in glacial lake bed forests, and in seasonally flooded sinkhole swamps (Flora of North America 2002). Rare in humus-rich, moist forests (Rhoads and Block 2000). Rich moist woods, often on rotten logs (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Humus of beech, oak, maple, or mixed woods (Voss 1972). Humus of hardwood-forests (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-hickory forest* (guide)
  • Beech-maple mesic forest (guide)
  • Hemlock-hardwood swamp (guide)
  • Hemlock-northern hardwood forest* (guide)
  • Limestone woodland* (guide)
  • Maple-basswood rich mesic forest* (guide)
  • Rich mesophytic forest* (guide)
  • Successional northern hardwoods*
  • Successional southern hardwoods*

Associated Species

  • Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple)
  • Acer rubrum var. rubrum (common red maple)
  • Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
  • Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern)
  • Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
  • Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
  • Betula lenta (black birch)
  • Betula papyrifera (paper birch)
  • Epifagus virginiana (beech-drops)
  • Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
  • Fraxinus americana (white ash)
  • Hamamelis virginiana (witch-hazel)
  • Hepatica nobilis var. acuta
  • Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa
  • Huperzia lucidula (shining firmoss)
  • Laportea canadensis (wood-nettle)
  • Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
  • Mitchella repens (partridge-berry)
  • Monotropa uniflora (Indian-pipe)
  • Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
  • Quercus rubra (northern red oak)
  • Tilia americana var. americana (American basswood)
  • Trientalis borealis
  • Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)

Range

New York State Distribution

This orchid is currently known only from Zoar Valley (western New York), Tonawanda Creek drainage, and the Catskill Mountains. Historical records have been documented from scattered locations around the state. More populations than are known are likely present within the state.

Global Distribution

This orchid ranges from southern Maine to southern Wisconsin, south to Florida, eastern Texas, and Central America.

Best Places to See

  • Sensitive species. No sites listed.

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a small, attractive orchid with a very short bloom time. The purple to green stems are 10-30 cm tall and nodding at first but straighten out as they grow. A few small, clasping, oval, green leaves can be seen along the stem which is topped by 1-3 white tubular flowers with magenta edges. The flowers turn a pinkish color as they age. The triangular lip curves down and is surrounded by four forward-facing petals.

Identifying Characteristics

An ephemeral orchid with purple to green stems 10-30 cm tall from a cluster of fleshy roots. These stems are nodding at first but straighten as it grows. The ovate leaves (1-2 cm long) are sessile on or clasping to the stem. The flowers are whitish to pale pink with magenta margins. The sepal and lateral petal are lanceolate and 1.5-2 cm long. The lip is 1.5-2 cm long with three prominent green ridges that are crisped at the tip with upturned lateral lobes.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

This orchid may be identified from the stem, flowers, or fruit. Due to its rarity, only a picture is needed to verify the identify. Do not collect any specimens.

Similar Species

A very unique orchid that is easy to identify but difficult to find due to its very short blooming period.

Best Time to See

This orchid blooms for a very short period sometime around the second or third week of August, with all flowers of a population blooming at the same time. These flowers usually last only for a single day. Occasionally, the blooming window is a few weeks early or late. Since this orchid is only present for a few weeks each year, or remains completely dormant during the growing season, searches can be challenging. Inventories should begin in early August with repeated visits to the search site until early September.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Nodding Pogonia flowering and fruiting in New York.

Nodding Pogonia Images

Taxonomy

Nodding Pogonia
Triphora trianthophora (Sw.) Rydb.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Orchidales
          • Family Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Three Birds Orchid
  • Threebirds
  • Three-birds Orchid

Synonyms

  • Pogonia trianthophora (Sw.) BSP.
  • Triphora trianthophora ssp. trianthophora [Ours are all of this subspecies.]
  • Arethusa trianthophoros Swartz

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Other References

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York. 723 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.

Voss, E.G. 1972. Michigan Flora, Part I. Gymnosperms and Monocots. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 55 and the University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor. 488 pp.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York

Links

About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 22, 2009

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Triphora trianthophora. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/nodding-pogonia/. Accessed March 20, 2019.

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