Species Profile

Small Whorled Pogonia

Scientific Name: Isotria medeoloides
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Small Whorled Pogonia

Small Whorled Pogonia Photo 1



The Small Whorled Pogonia is a perennial terrestrial orchid measuring 9.5 to 25 cm in height. There are 5 or 6 leaves at the end of the stem. The flowers are yellowish-green; one or two flowers are found at the end of the stem, beyond the leaves. The capsules measure 2.5 by 1 cm; a capsule can contain several thousand tiny seeds.


Distribution and Population

The Small Whorled Pogonia has been considered rare in North America ever since its discovery in 1814. It occurs in the United States from New England and Michigan south to Missouri and South Carolina. In Canada, the Small Whorled Pogonia is found at only one site in southwestern Ontario, in the Calton Swamp area of Elgin County. From 1980 to 1989, the Small Whorled Pogonia in Canada was reduced from four distinct but close locations in the Calton Swamp, to a single individual plant. It is not known if the plant has disappeared entirely from the swamp, or still exists there in low numbers.



The Small Whorled Pogonia requires damp, mixed woods with an acidic soil. There is usually abundant leaf mould, but limited shrub and herbaceous cover. A forest with small openings and a flat floor is preferred.



The Small Whorled Pogonia flowers from May to June. The likelihood of the seeds germinating, and thus of the plant reproducing, is very low.



The Small Whorled Pogonia is very sensitive to disturbance, as is typical of all orchids. Collection of specimens for scientific purposes has been the cause of the loss of many plants. Trampling and loss of habitat are also limiting factors for the Small Whorled Pogonia. A trail used by trail bikes and all-terrain vehicles crosses the orchid habitat at Calton Swamp; trail traffic has caused the demise of at least one group of pogonias.



Federal Protection

The Small Whorled Pogonia is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Small Whorled Pogonia is protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat. It occurs in the Calton Swamp Wildlife Management Area.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Other Protection or Status

The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna, of which Canada is a member, protects the Small Whorled Pogonia against international trade.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Small Whorled Pogonia Recovery Team

  • Tony Difazio - Chair/Contact - Conservation organization (NGO)
    Phone: 519-773-9037  Fax: 519-765-1489  Send Email
  • Ron Gould - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 519-773-4745  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

6 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Small Whorled Pogonia (2000)

    Designated Endangered in April 1982. Status re-examined and confirmed in April 1998 and in May 2000. May 2000 assessment based on new quantitative criteria applied to information from the existing 1998 status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Small Whorled Pogonia (2011)

    This small orchid, previously known only from a single swamp in Ontario, requires mixed damp woods. It was assessed as Endangered in 2000. Its habitat continues to decline in quality due to trampling and exotic earthworms. It was last seen in 1998, though its potential for dormancy means it may still be extant.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) in Canada (2007)

    The Small whorled pogonia is under the management jurisdiction of the Ontario provincial government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. The Small whorled pogonia was listed as Endangered under SARA in June 2003. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario, Environment Canada worked in cooperation to develop this Recovery Strategy. All responsible jurisdictions reviewed and acknowledged receipt of the strategy. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41). This recovery strategy was developed in consultation with the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) in Canada (2011)

    Small Whorled Pogonia was listed as an Endangered species in Canada under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Small Whorled Pogonia and has prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 49 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. This action plan compliments the Recovery Strategy for the Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) in Canada.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.