Species At Risk

Small Whorled Pogonia

(Isotria medeoloides)


Small Whorled Pogonia
Small Whorled Pogonia occurrences map


Small Whorled Pogonia is a small orchid that can reach 9.5 to 25 centimetres tall. At the end of the stem, it produces one to two yellowish-green flowers found just above a whorl of five to six leaves. This plant generally flowers from mid-May to mid-June. The small fruits can hold thousands of tiny seeds. Without flowers, this species can resemble the more common Indian Cucumber-root.


In Canada, Small Whorled Pogonia is found only in the Calton Swamp area of Elgin County in southwest Ontario. There were once four sub-populations present at this site that were reduced to only one plant by 1989. This species has not been found at the site since 1998.


In Ontario, Small Whorled Pogonia is found in moist, mixed forests with acidic soils and a rich layer of decaying leaves. It prefers openings in the forest where it can get lots of sunlight and where there are usually very few shrubs or other plants growing on the forest floor.


The greatest threat to Small Whorled Pogonia is habitat destruction. Collection by orchid enthusiasts and trampling by trail bikes and ATVs are also serious problems. Pollution from factories and vehicles can harm Small Whorled Pogonia by killing the fungus in the soil that this plant depends on. Invasive plants that compete for space and light with this species are a potential threat. Earthworms, which are not native to Canada, can ruin habitat by altering the fungus and leaf litter that this plant needs to grow.


The Small Whorled Pogonia and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. This species also receives protection under the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Small Whorled Pogonia

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as Small Whorled Pogonia. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find Small Whorled Pogonia on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit: ontario.ca/invasivespecies ; www.invadingspecies.com ; www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca ; and, www.invasivespecies.gc.ca .
  • The Carolinian forests of southern Ontario support an amazing diversity of plants and wildlife, including many species at risk. Carolinian Canada is working to help recover species at risk and their habitats. For more information, visit: www.carolinian.org/SpeciesHabitats.htm.

Did you know?

The Small Whorled Pogonia appears to be primarily self-pollinated. The flowers lack nectar guides and fragrance and insect pollination has not been observed.

Did you know?

Like all orchids, Small Whorled Pogonia obtains some nutrients from fungus in the soil.

Did you know?

Orchids can remain underground for several years and will wait for the right conditions before starting to grow new plants.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.