Rose or Sweet Pogonia – Flowers

(Pogonia ophioglossoides)

Orchid family

Flowers—Pale rose pink, fragrant, about 1 in. long, usually solitary at end of stem 8 to 15 in, high, and subtended by a leaf-like bract. Sepals and petals equal, oval, about 1/2 in. long, the lip spoon-shaped, crested, and fringed. Column shorter than petals, thick, club-shaped. Anther terminal, attached to back of column, 1 pollen mass in each of its 2 sacs. Stigma a flattened disk below anther. Leaves : 1 to 3, erect, lance-oblong, sometimes one with long footstem from fibrous root.

Preferred Habitat—Swamps and low meadows.

Flowering Season-June-July.

Distribution—Canada to Florida, westward to Kansas.

Rearing its head above the low sedges, often brightened with colonies of the grass pink at the same time, this shy recluse of the swamps woos the passing bee with lovely color, a fragrance like fresh red raspberries, an alluring alighting place all fringed and crested, and with the prospect of hospitable entertainment in the nectary beyond. So in she goes, between the platform and the column overhead, pushing first her head, then brushing her back against the stigma just below the end of the thick column that almost closes the passage. Any powdery pollen she brought on her back from another pogonia must now be brushed off against the sticky stigma. Her feast ended, out she backs. And now a wonderful thing happens. The lid of the anther which is at the end of the column, catching in her shoulders, swings outward on its elastic hinge, releasing a little shower of golden dust, which she must carry on the hairs of her head or back until the sticky stigma of the next pogonia entered kindly wipes it off ! This is one of the few orchids whose pollen, usually found in masses, is not united by threads. Without the bee’s aid in releasing it from its little box, the lovely species would quickly perish from the face of the earth.