Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Large Spreading Pogonia - Cleistesiopsis divaricata   (L.) Pansarin & F. Barros
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Section 5 » Family Orchidaceae
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Author(L.) Pansarin & F. Barros
DistributionThe revised C. divaricata is now restricted in NC to the Coastal Plain; the former "old" species had a bimodal range of Coastal Plain and Mountains/foothills. The "new" species occurs over nearly all of the southern two-thirds of the Coastal Plain, though it is primarily found from Beaufort and Johnston counties southward, including the Sandhills region. Records from Franklin and Montgomery counties may suggest the range barely extends into the eastern edge of the Piedmont, but it is best to simply call it a "Coastal Plain orchid".

This species is now restricted to the Atlantic Coastal Plain, ranging north to NJ and south to northeastern FL. It does not occur as far west as AL.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent in the southern third of the Coastal Plain and Sandhills; generally uncommon in the central counties, but very rare to rare in the northern Coastal Plain. The species is usually not seen in clumps or clusters as are many herbaceous species; it often is just seen as scattered individuals at a given site. Despite its occurrence in roughly half of state's Coastal Plain counties, the NC NHP has it designated as a Watch List species.
HabitatThis is a classic "pine savanna" species, being primarily found in such high quality habitats, especially under open stands of Longleaf Pine (P. palustris); it rarely occurs in wet pine flatwoods. In the Sandhills it occurs in sandhill seeps and streamhead ecotones.
See also Habitat Account for Wet, Sandy, Fire-maintained Herblands
PhenologyBlooms from May into mid-June; fruits shortly after blooming.
IdentificationOf the three species of "spreading pogonias", this is the tallest and largest in flower. The stem, with a single flower at the top, grows normally 1.5-2 feet tall; a single long and narrow leaf grows off the upper half of the stem. The elegant flower has very long and slender purple sepals spreading to the top and sides of the floral tube; the sepals are often 2 inches long. The petals and lip of the tube are pink (very rarely white or whitish) and are 1.5-2 inches long. The Coastal Plain Small Spreading Pogonia (C. oricamporum), recently split from the older C. divaricata, has smaller flowers. Its floral tube (petals) is mainly just 1-1.5 inches long, and the sepals average at best 1.5 inches long. Normally, this latter species has white or very pale pink petals, as opposed to a richer pink color in C. divaricata, though this should not be the sole identification character used. Weakley (2018) says that C. divaricata has fresh flowers with a "daffodil-like odor"; C. oricamporum has fresh flowers that have a "strong vanilla scent". Note that the rather similar C. bifaria is restricted to the state's mountains and western Piedmont; its range does not approach that of the other two.
Taxonomic CommentsFirst, all members of the current Cleistesiopsis were named as the genus Cleistes for nearly all of the 20th Century; this species was named thus as Cleistes divaricata. However, that 20th Century entity has now been split into three species, and the "new" C. divaricata is now limited to the Coastal Plain.

Other Common Name(s)Spreading Pogonia, Rosebud Orchid. Because the two newly described species -- bifaria and oricamporum -- almost always have "Small Spreading Pogonia" in their names, simply calling this species as "Spreading Pogonia" is not appropriate and is a nested name.
State RankS3
Global RankG4
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. SorrieBrunswick County, 2018, Green Swamp. BrunswickPhoto_natural
Joe ShimelCABE 2006-05-09 New HanoverPhoto_natural
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