TRIANTHOPHORA (Sw.) Rydb.
HABIT: Herbaceous perennial, 0.3-3.0 dm.; flowering late
July to August (see Comments below for a discussion of the flowering period).
SIMILAR SPECIES: Very distinctive; unlike any other flower
in mid-summer in Ohio's woodlands.
TOTAL RANGE: FL to TX, n. to s. ME, NY, OH, s. MI, s. WI,
STATE RANGE: Formerly widespread over all of the state
except the south-east quarter with pre-1960 records from 13 counties: Clark,
Cuyahoga, Erie, Fairfield, Hamilton, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Ross, Stark,
Summit, and Wayne. There are post-1960 reports from 7 counties: Franklin,
Fulton, Greene, Highland, Licking, Preble, and Warren. Braun (1967) also lists
it from 4 other counties: Adams, Ashtabula, Champaign, and Delaware. Not all
these populations may be extant.
STATE STATUS: 1980 to present: Threatened.
HABITAT: Mature deciduous woodlands, especially beech-sugar
maple forests, the plants often half-buried in deep leaf litter.
HAZARDS: Drying of forest humus following logging; trampling
and compaction of the forest floor; over-collecting.
RECOVERY POTENTIAL: Unknown, but probably poor because of
this species' peculiar life history (see Comments below).
INVENTORY GUIDELINES: Collecting should be discouraged.
COMMENTS: This species is seldom seen and is little
understood by anyone. It is graceful
and diminutive when in bloom, but it is almost impossible to locate the species
at any other time of the year. Few people investigate our deciduous woodlands
during mid-summer, so this species may well be over-looked. A summary of its
life history will illustrate the difficulties of finding the plant.
Triphora lives as a saprophyte in the forest humus until late July.
Nothing is visible above ground until a tiny pale green shoot surfaces. This
event is triggered by a little-known balance of soil moisture and nighttime air
temperature. By mid-August, three flowers are produced on a delicate, nearly
leafless stalk. Each of these three flowers blooms but a single day, opening at
dawn and lasting only until fertilization, perhaps but a few hours later.
plants in a given population or area seem to bloom synchronously over a three
day period. By the beginning of September, nothing remains but a dried, brown
seed stalk. This, too, quickly vanishes. The orchid continues to live a
saprophytic existence under the ground during the winter and spring.
Argus, G.W. and D.J. White. 1982. Atlas of the rare vascular
plants of ontario: Part 1. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa Canada. n.p.
Braun, E.L. 1967. The Monocotyledoneae of Ohio : Cat-tails
to orchids. The Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH. 464 p.
Case, F.W. 1964. Orchids of the western Great Lakes region.
Cranbrook Institute of Science Bull. No. 48, Bloomfield Hills, MI. 147 p.
Luer, C.A. 1975. The native orchids of the United States and
Canada excluding Florida. New York Botanical Garden, New York, NY. 361 p.
Van Arsdale, J.M. 1982. A new northern station for Triphora
trianthophora. Mich. Bot. 21: 93-94.
Zavity, C.H. and L.O. Gaiser. 1956. Notes on Triphora
trianthophora in Ontario. Rhodora 58: 31-35.
Zika, P.F. 1983. Triphora trianthophora in Massachusetts
and Vermont. Rhodora 85: 123-124.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
Created: 1/1984 Allison W. Cusick
Database Code: SPGY.736