Three Birds Orchid
or Nodding Pagonia
Three years ago while taking a group of Girl Scout Leaders on a little
ride showing off the area as a potential Camporee site we happened along
a clump of flowers which I had never seen before.
There were literally hundreds of tiny blooms which had the appearance
of tiny orchids. I had forgotten my camera and could not find the flowers
a couple days later when I came back with the camera.
3 weeks later when visiting the same area I came upon a large clump
of what appeared to be pods. I was able to get some pictures & at that point we
were able to identify it as 3
Birds Orchid or Nodding Pagonia
The following year I made nearly daily visits to the
clump so that I would be sure to be there on the one day of the year they
are supposed to bloom. Here's a close look inside at the stamen from below
I could find only 2 pictures on all the web and they were of the
same single plants, at a distance
in black & white without Macro Zoom
It is threatened throughout the US with about 20 sites found in
It is found from Maine to Texas & Minnesota to
Florida. In Wisconsin it is found mostly in Green county discovered first by Curtis himself in the 1930's.
This is the only new site found in Wisconsin since 1990.
Information from the State Endangered Species people was very interesting
but seemed to disagree with many of the findings we were able to notice. .First, nothing was said about the plants growing in clumps and since all pictures were of single
plants it suggested a solitary plant, not the colony or clump seen
Second it stated that the plant bloomed for one day only and that all the flowers on one plant would bloom the same day.
In fact we had 3 different 1 day blooms during the month of August.
In 2001 there were 5 days that had at least one flower
bloom. All Blooming days were preceded by a weather change which often
included rain but always included a temperature drop of at least 30 degrees F
within 24 hrs. Bloomsoccurred 48-72 hours after a significant rain
of 1" or more or were associated with a big temperature drop.
The first picture is of the first bloom the second picture
is of the second bloom with some of the seed pods apparent from the first bloom.
Thirdly it stated the pollinator was the Bumblebee. Since the flower
was extremely small, usually less than 1 cm across, I could not imagine
how such a large bee could pollinate such a small flower. Several times
small bugs could be seen crawling in and out of the flowers. It turns out
there are several sub-species one of which found in Michigan is much smaller
than other sub-species. This may represent that varient or may
represent a new sub-species. DNA testing is currently being done by a PHD
candidate at Ohio State. His Thesis will be a link when finished.
His testing may show this to be a new sub-species.
This picture shot by my daughter for a 4H project shows a
Black Gnat or some type of extremely small fly in the act of pollination.
Notice how the fly grasps the stamen as it dips into the lateral recesses
for nectar. Pollen attaches to the fly's feet and pollination occurs
when the fly turns around walks out of the orchid and then flies to the next
flower and repeats the process
Here you can see flowers just opening with many developed
pods. This is Bloom #3 with many of the seed pods growing out of the
first round blooms that occurred almost a month earlier Usually only 1 of the 3 birds flowered at a time with only about
5% of the plants having multiple blooms active on the same plant at the
same time. At the end of the blooming period only 1 of more than
100 plants had 3 seed pods on it indicating of all the plants present
only 1 was able to get all 3 birds to bloom and form seed pods.
Most had 2 pods and many had only 1.
Savanna Springs #: 608/ 328-2300 Home Phone: 608/ 325-4606
Cell Phone #: 608/ 558-2075
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