Triphora trianthophora (Sw.) Rydb.

three-birds orchid

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Three-birds orchid is threatened in New England, and rare or threatened throughout much of its range in North America. It typically occurs in moist beech (Fagus grandifolia) forests, in hollows with deep leaf litter and in the absence of competing herbaceous plants. It is thought to be semi-saprophytic (dependant on decaying organic matter for carbon and nutrients). It flowers sporadically and may persist as subterranean tuberoids for long periods, complicating census and conservation efforts.

Habitat

Forests

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Number of leaves on stem
  • five
  • four
  • six or more
  • three
  • two
Form of lower petal
the labellum does not have a pouch-like shape
Lower petal outline
the labellum is lobed but not fringed
Main color of lower petal
  • green to brown
  • pink to red
  • white
Nectar spur
there are no nectar spurs on the flower
Inflorescence type
  • the inflorescence has only one flower or a pair of flowers on it
  • the inflorescence is a raceme (a long unbranched stem with stalked flowers growing along it)
Lower petal characteristics
the labellum is lobed
Lower petal length
8–20 mm
Sepal length
11–15 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Flower petal color
    • pink
    • white
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowering date
    • August
    • September
    Flowers per inflorescence
    1–20
    Form of lower petal
    the labellum does not have a pouch-like shape
    Hairs on inflorescence axis
    • NA
    • the main stem of the inflorescence is hairless
    Inflorescence type
    • the inflorescence has only one flower or a pair of flowers on it
    • the inflorescence is a raceme (a long unbranched stem with stalked flowers growing along it)
    Labellum position
    the labellum is in the lower position on the flower
    Lobes at base of lower petal
    0 mm
    Lower petal characteristics
    the labellum is lobed
    Lower petal length
    8–20 mm
    Lower petal outline
    the labellum is lobed but not fringed
    Lower petal strongly red-veined
    no
    Main color of lower petal
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    • white
    Nectar spur
    there are no nectar spurs on the flower
    Nectar spur length
    0 mm
    Number of stamens
    1
    Orientation of side petals
    the lateral petals are angled steeply upwards
    Self-pollinating flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on this plant
    Sepal length
    11–15 mm
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Spots on lower petal
    no
    Spur opening membrane
    NA
    Spur opening shape
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Fruit length
    10–15 mm
    Fruit width
    5–10 mm
    Seed capsule orientation
    • the capsule bends downwards or hangs downwards
    • the capsule points upwards or is angled outwards
  • Growth form
    Plant green or not
    the plant is chlorophyllous (it has green parts)
    Roots
    the rhizomes do not resemble coral
    Underground organs
    • the plant has one or more swollen storage organs underground, such as bulbs, tubers or corms
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bract relative length
    the bract is shorter than the associated flower
    Features of leaves
    the leaf does not have any of the mentioned special features
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade edges
    the edges of the leaf blade have no teeth
    Leaf blade length
    6–20 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acuminate (tapers to a long, thin point)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Leaves during flowering
    there are leaves on the plant when it is flowering
    Number of bracts on stem
    0
    Number of leaves on stem
    • five
    • four
    • six or more
    • three
    • two
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    forests

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Maine
rare (S-rank: S2), threatened (code: T)
Massachusetts
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
New Hampshire
rare (S-rank: S2), threatened (code: T)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), threatened (code: T)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Pogonia ophioglossoides

Synonyms

  • Arethusa trianthophora Sw.
  • Pogonia trianthophora B.S.P.

Family

Orchidaceae

Genus

Triphora

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Triphora trianthophora (Sw.) Rydb. ssp. trianthophora NC

three-birds orchid. Arethusa trianthophora Sw.; Pogonia trianthophora B.S.P. • CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. Deciduous forests, usually in association with Fagus grandifolia on slopes and benches in hilly terrain.