The small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), is 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 its native range. Nowhere is it considered secure or common (Vitt 1997).
A widely distributed species with approximately 201 element occurrences with better than poor viability known. The largest cluster of sites is centered around the Appalachian Mountains of New England and coastal Massachusetts, with two moderate-sized clusters centered around (1) the southern Appalachians and (2) the Coastal Plain and Piedmont of Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. There are also a few widely scattered outlying sites. Populations are typically very small and the total number of individuals is estimated to be less than 3,000. Most extant sites considered viable are now protected, with site-specific protection and monitoring efforts well underway. However, without voluntary landowner protection, many I. medeoloides populations could be lost to housing development and non-selective logging.
New England Wild Flower Society is the oldest plant conservation organization in the United States, they are working to preserve the Isotria medeoloides.
Society staff and a large corps of trained volunteers monitor populations of hundreds of rare plants in all six states. The Society is on track to bank seeds from at least two-thirds of the populations of globally and regionally rare plants by 2020. We thank them for their efforts!
The conservation experts at CPC participating institutions such as New England Wild Flower Society share their in-depth conservation expertise about rare plants through CPC’s National Collection Plant Profiles.