Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Shadow-witch - Ponthieva racemosa   (Walter) Mohr
Members of Orchidaceae:
Only member of Ponthieva in NC.
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Section 5 » Order Orchidales » Family Orchidaceae
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Author(Walter) Mohr
DistributionPresent only in the southeastern portion of the Coastal Plain, from Beaufort County south to the SC state line. As it is known from a few southeastern VA counties, it potentially could be found in the northeastern Coastal Plain in NC.

This is a Southeastern species ranging from southeastern VA south to southern FL and west to eastern TX. It does occur disjunctly inland to south-central TN and the northern parts of MS and AL; however, it is restricted to the Coastal Plain in NC, SC, and GA. Also occurs in Mex. through the neotropics.

AbundanceRare and somewhat local; restricted to sites over marl in NC. Owing to its scarcity in the state, it is listed as a State Threatened species.
HabitatAs mentioned above, the habitats in the state must have higher pH soils, and always it occurs over marl/coquina rock. It is generally found in the shade (or even dense shade) of hardwoods, such as in bottomlands, swamp margins, and edges of forested creeks.
PhenologyThis is a very late blooming species, mainly in flower from mid-September well into October. It fruits shortly after blooming.
IdentificationAs this is the only member of its genus in the Southeast, it is quite distinctive from other orchids. It is one of the few orchids with a basal rosette (green all year). The handful of leaves are glaucous green, somewhat obovate in shape, tapering to a short petiole, with each one being about 3-4 inches long; they lie flat on the ground. Careful biologists might be able to identify the species just by the basal rosette, though he or she would need to be searching in its rare marl-dominated habitats. The stem is typically 1-1.5 feet tall, leafless, and topped by a loose and open cluster of just 8-12 flowers. Each flower is a dull white to very pale green and is a bit twisted to face upward instead of outward or downward. Each flower is about 1/3-inch across. The species can occur in loose groups, sometimes as many as 30 or more plants at a given site. Unfortunately, most populations are probably already found, as suitable marl habitats are limited. And, there is little to no marl habitat in the northern half of the Coastal Plain.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Hairy Shadow-witch. This is quite a frequent name used on websites, maybe more so now than simply Shadow-witch. However, as this is the only Ponthieva in the eastern US, the use of the modifier name is probably not necessary in NC.
State RankS2
Global RankG5
State StatusT
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. Sorriesame data. Flowering scape. PenderPhoto_natural
B.A. SorriePendder County, 1995, Holly Shelter Game Land. Basal leaves. PenderPhoto_natural
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