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Nodding Pogonia (Triphora trianthophora)

Life history

Species overview

Nodding Pogonia (Triphora trianthophora), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in upland, hardwood forests, often with a well-developed humus layer. Blooming occurs throughout August; fruiting occurs early September through early October. The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early October.

Synonyms: Arethusa trianthophoros, Pogonia trianthophora, Triphora trianthophora var. schaffneri


  • Distinguishing characteristics: As is true with most orchids, nodding pogonia is very distinctive and when in flower can not be confused with any other species.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers few, axillary, ephemeral, 1.5 to 2 cm, white to pale pink; lip with 3 prominent green ridges, crisped at the tip with lateral lobes upturned.
  • Fruit characteristics: Seed capsules pendant, 1.5 cm long.
  • Leaf characteristics: Alternate, sessile, ovate-acute, 8 to 20 mm long, 6 to 12 mm wide.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout August
  • Fruiting phenology: early September through early October
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early October


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharum, Tilia americana, Quercus rubra, Fraxinus americana, Athyrium filix-femina, Trillium grandiflorum, Smilacina racemosa.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Nodding Pogonia (Triphora trianthophora). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Triphora trianthophora in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4?
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in upland, hardwood forests, often with a well-developed humus layer.
  • Soils: Rich, moist soils and rotting logs.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Nodding Pogonia. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Southern Dry-mesic Forest 2
Southern Mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Nodding Pogonia. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Maintain thick duff layer if possible; minimize spread of invasive species including earthworms.
  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Maintain structural characteristics of old growth forests such as downed logs and other coarse woody debris.


Nodding Pogonia Photo.

Triphora trianthophora. Photo from Endangered Resources files.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Nodding Pogonia Photo.

Nodding pogonia is a saprophytic orchid that still occurs in forests of the Western Coulees and Ridges.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Nodding Pogonia Photo.

Photo © Abbie Church.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition