Isotria medeoloides

Common Names:
Small Whorled Pogonia, Lesser Five Leaves, Little Five Leaves
FrederickTraugott Pursh, C. S. Rafinesque-Schmaltz
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
New England Wild Flower Society

The conservation of Isotria medeoloides is fully sponsored.


Isotria medeoloides is a small, perennial orchid of deciduous forests with a grayish-green, smooth stem up to 30 cm tall that bears at its summit a whorl of 5-6 light-green, elliptical, pointed leaves and 1-2 yellow-green flowers. This distinctive leaf whorl gives the plant its name; only one other co-occurring orchid, its close relative Isotria verticillata, looks similar but has a purplish stem and the stem (peduncle) bearing the ovary is longer than the ovary. The species name, "medeoloides," refers to the resemblance between seedlings of the orchid and the Indian cucumber, Medeola virginiana. However, the lily Medeola has very different flowers and a solid, slender stem, in contrast to I. medeoloides which has a stout, hollow stem.

Often cited as "the rarest orchid east of the Mississippi," this orchid is critically imperiled in 14 (78%) of the 18 states and provinces in which it still occurs; it is thought to be historical or extirpated in 5 states. Nowhere is it considered secure or common. The primary threat to its existence is destruction of its woodland habitat for development or forestry. The majority of its populations typically number fewer than 25 plants, and are thus vulnerable to local extinction. New searches for the plant have turned up new locations in the past decade, however, and ongoing management experiments are revealing much about its biology and the best methods for its conservation.

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research