Pogonia ophioglossoides (L.) Jussieu

Rose pogonia, Snake-mouth

The generic name Pogonia is derived from the Greek pogon, for "beard", and refers to the "bearded appearance of the labellum. The specific epithet ophioglossoides apparently refers to the similarity between the leaves of this species and those of the fern genus Ophioglossum. The genus Pogonia contains about 10 species, distributed throughout East Asia, with only P. ophioglossoides being found in North America.

DESCRIPTION: Plant glabrous, 15-35 cm tall, arising from a cluster of fibrous roots, with runners or stolons from which other aerial shoots arise. One leaf located midway up the stem, ovate to elliptical, 3-10 cm long and 1-2.5 cm wide; leaf somewhat fleshy in texture. Typically one pink flower terminating the stem, rarely two or three, the flower subtended by a elliptical to lanceolate foliaceous bract 1.5-4 cm long and 6-15 mm wide. Sepals pink, elliptical, 1.5-2.4 cm long and 2-5 mm wide. Petals pink, elliptical, 1.5-2 cm long and 5-10 mm wide. Labellum spatulate, 1.5-2 cm long and 5-10 mm wide; margin of the labellum fringed with fleshy hairs, center of the labellum bearing several rows of similar hairs, typically pink with marginal hairs darker pink-purple or magenta and central hairs yellow, occasionally all pink or deep magenta.

The plants are difficult to identify unless flowering, but then they can be confused with little else. Two slightly similar species that grow in the same habitat and flower at about the same time are Calopogon tuberosus and Arethusa bulbosa.

HABITAT: Pogoniais almost always found is acidic, boggy conditions, typically growing from Sphagnum moss. In Wisconsin it can be most commonly found growing in floating mat bogs ringing northern lakes. A second common habitat is wet sphagnous swales in areas of sandy soils, such as relic dunes along Lake Superior and in the region of Glacial Lake Wisconsin in the west-central counties.

FLOWERING DATES: June 25-August 10.

According to Thien & Marcks (1972), Pogonia is pollinated by bumblebees. Like the co-occurring Arethusa bulbosa and Calopogon tubersosus, the pollination system of Pogonia is deceptive. While the flowers appear attractive to the visiting bees, they supply no reward for pollination services rendered.

DISCUSSION: Pogonia typically forms large diffuse colonies as a result of its method of vegetative spread. Long, thin runners are sent out from plants through the upper layers of Sphagnum. At intervals, adventitious buds lead to the formation of new plants. This vegetative reproduction also means that Pogonia lends well to cultivation, given the proper environment. Carson Whitlow, of Cyp Haven, sells propagated plants of Pogonia. As always, it is recommended that you buy cultivated plants from a reputable source, rather than remove them from the wild.

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