Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Appalachian Small Spreading Pogonia - Cleistesiopsis bifaria   (Fernald) Pansarin & F. Barros
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Section 5 » Family Orchidaceae
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Author(Fernald) Pansarin & F. Barros
DistributionPresent over much of the Mountains, and sparingly in the western Piedmont. Ranges east to Wilkes, Catawba, and Cleveland counties. Not present, apparently, farther to the east. This species and C. oricamporum are recent splits from C. divaricata (which still exists); thus, there are now three species of "spreading pogonias" in NC.

This "new" species is a Southern Appalachian endemic, ranging north to western VA, WV, and eastern KY, and south to northern GA and northeastern AL.
AbundanceVery uncommon to infrequent, though not overly rare, in most of the Mountains, more frequent in the southern counties and rarest in the northern counties. It seems to occur mostly at low elevations in the Mountains (below 2500 feet). Rare in the western Piedmont. This is a Watch List species in the state, and the NCNHP moved the State Rank from S3 up to S2 in late 2022.
HabitatThis species favors acidic soils of a variety of open to semi-open habitats. It can occur in open montane pine stands, especially where "grassy", glade-like, or slightly moist. It can also be found in meadows -- dry or moist. However, it is not a bog species, like many orchids.
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits shortly after blooming.
IdentificationThis is a medium height orchid, growing to an average of 1-1.5 feet tall, with a single narrowly lanceolate leaf coming off the upper half of the stem. The stem is topped by a quite large flower, one per plant, with three long and narrow, dark red-purple spreading sepals to about 1.5-2 inches long. The three petals are pink and form a narrow tube about 1.5-2 inches long, with the tip of the lip hanging downward from the tube. Thus, the three species are very distinctive and are very different from any other plant, much less any other orchid. This is the only one of the three in the genus found in the mountains and western Piedmont, and thus discussion of separation characters are not necessary here. See the accounts for the other two species for their separation.
Taxonomic CommentsThe genus was known for most of the 20th Century as Cleistes, but essentially all references now use Cleistesiopsis for the genus name. Only in 2008 was the paper published that describes the species.

Other Common Name(s)Small Spreading Pogonia, Smaller Spreading Pogonia. These names should not be used as long as C. oricamporum is a valid species, as that also is a "small spreading pogonia". Names need to be used to distinguish these two, with the latter going by Coastal Plain Small Spreading Pogonia; the third species is named as "Large Spreading Pogonia".
State RankS2
Global RankG4?
State StatusW1
US Status
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