ghost orchid

Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Vanilloideae - Vanilloids
                    Tribe:   Pogonieae - Pogonia Tribe
                      Subtribe:   Pogoniinae - Pogonia Subtribe


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Description:
Synonyms: Cleistes divaricata (Linnaeus) Ames, var. bifaria Fernald 1946., Pogonia bifaria (Fernald) P. M. Brown & Wunderlin, N. Amer. Native Orchid J. 3: 450. 1997.

Summary: Terrestrial consisting of an underground network of spreading roots and an above-ground stem with a single leaf about mid-way up the stem. A smaller floral bract clasps around the base of the flower. The entire plant is coated with a whitish, plum-like frosting. The flower consists of the petals and lip forming a rather tight tube with the three sepals spreading upward behind this. The lip is heavily veined with several crests running along the middle. Flowers are sometimes fragrant.

Common Name: Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia

Habitat: An inhabitant of moist, open, boggy pinelands and wet roadsides

Flowering season: April through May

Images:
 
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid, Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)
Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria)

Description:
 

This particular species will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the second wild orchid species I had ever seen in situ as a young teenager. On this particular evening, my mother took my family out into the forest near our home to see something, she wouldn't say what. As we walked along, we saw a few plants of Spiranthes praecox in flower, which became my first native orchid seen in situ. Further along, my mom pointed out a small, pink patch that, at first sight, seemed to be one of many fetterbush leaves infected with this sort of gall disease that causes their leaves to swell up and turn bright pink. In fact, this is what she thought she was investigating that day. As we approached more closely, it became apparent that these were no galls. Before our eyes was a small colony of Cleistes bifaria, their stately, solitary flowers perched gracefully atop their slender stems.

Over the ensuing years, I watched this colony, visiting every year when they flowered. I watched the plants dwindle during dry spells, only to bounce back stronger than ever when the rains returned strongly. They always seemed to come back especially strongly after a controlled burn in the area, probably due to the removal of competing vegetation.

Of all the terrestrial orchids growing in Florida, this species (and the related Cleistes divaricata) is perhaps the most impressive with its solitary two-inch-tall flowers on a 12-to-18 inch tall stem. In a fashion similar to Pogonia ophioglossoides, the stem has a single, clasping leaf borne midway up the stem and another smaller floral bract just beneath the flower. Seedlings consist of just a single leaf. The entire plant is covered with a plum-like frosting, which makes even non-flowering plants stand out well against the surrounding vegetation. The flowers are sometimes scented with a strong, sweet vanilla-like scent.

This orchid is encountered infrequently in wet, open pinelands, often as part of the longleaf pine and wiregrass communities found throughout the southeastern United States. It is never very common, but becomes locally abundant in areas of the Florida panhandle, especially in the Apalachicola National Forest, where it is accompanied by the more common Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus) and Pale Grass Pink (Calopogon pallidus).

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