Every year I comb through our wooded acres to see certain plants blooming and to find new discoveries. One of the plants I look for is called Whorled Pogonia, Isotria verticillata, a member of the Orchid family, Orchidaceae.
As far as I know the whorled pogonia in our small area on the mountain ridge has only bloomed once in seven years. They didn’t bloom in 2011, but they put on a show in 2010. When it does bloom, whorled pogonia flowers in May and June in moist acid woods and thickets in the eastern U.S..
Whorled pogonia flowers are an interesting oddity. The lipped flower, typical of orchids, is greenish-yellow with some streaks of purple or maroon.
The plants start coming up in May as little pinwheels. They continue to grow taller and get bigger for a few weeks until the leaves are two to four inches long. The individual plants remain standing for the summer, unless a big foot or critter knocks them over. In the autumn the foliage may turn to yellow before going back to the earth.
Whorled pogonia has five leaves, and sometimes six, in a single whorl.
Leaves are parallel-veined and widest near the tips. Terminal ends may have pointed or rounded tips.
Apparently there are no edible or medicinal properties of interest in whorled pogonia. However, it would make a delightful addition to a native woodland garden, provided that it’s planted in the shade.