FWS Focus



The small whorled pogonia is a member of the orchid family. The plant is named for the whorl of five or six leaves near the top of the stem and beneath the flower. The species is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

Scientific Name

Isotria medeoloides
Common Name
green fiveleaf orchid
small whorled pogonia
FWS Category
Flowering Plants

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Size & Shape

The stem of the small whorled pogonia grows about 10 inches tall when in flower and about 14 inches tall when bearing fruit. Leaves of the orchid are oblong and 1 to 3.5 inches long. The fruit appears as an upright ellipsoid capsule. 

Height: 10 to 14 inches (25 to 36 cm)
Leaf Length: 1 to 3.5 inches (2.5 to 9 cm)

Color & Pattern

The small whorled pogonia has a single stem and oblong leaves that are grayish-green in color. A single or paired green-yellow flower can be visible in May or June.  

Characteristic category

Life Cycle


The small whorled pogonia flowers from mid-May to mid-June, with the flowers lasting only a few days to a week. It may not flower every year but when it does flower, one or two flowers are produced per plant. If pollinated, a capsule forms that contains several thousand minute seeds. The pogonia appears to self-pollinate by mechanical processes. The flower lacks both nectar guides and fragrance and insect pollination has not been observed. 

Characteristic category



This orchid grows in older hardwood stands of beech, birch, maple, oak, and hickory that have an open understory. Sometimes it grows in stands of softwoods such as hemlock. It prefers acidic soils with a thick layer of dead leaves, often on slopes near small streams. 


A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.



Although widely distributed, the small whorled pogonia is rare. It is found in 18 eastern states and Ontario, Canada. Populations are typically small with less than 20 plants. It has been extirpated from Missouri, Vermont and Maryland. 

Launch Interactive Map


Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

7 Items