Pogonia ophioglossoides
Snakemouth orchid or Rose pogonia

Pogonia ophioglossoides

Pogonia ophioglossoides
Pogonia ophioglossoides
Photos Courtesy Renee Brecht
Britton & Brown
Botanical name: Pogonia ophioglossoides
Common name: Snakemouth orchid or Rose pogonia
Group: monocot
Family: Orchidaceae
Growth type: forb/herb
Duration: perennial
Origin: native
Plant height: 8 - 20"
Foliage: A  2 to 4 inch single leaf is lanceolate and located about halfway up the stem; basal leaves are absent at flowering, appearing later
Flower: 3/4" Pink, with a fringed lip that has a yellow center. Its fragrance has been likened to that of raspberries.
Flowering time: Flowers June, usually around the end of Arethusa bulbosa's bloom. The second of our three "pink" orchids.Insect pollinated.
Habitat: Open acid soil of wet meadows or sphagnum bogs. Often found with Arethusa and Grass Pink (Calopogon) orchids.
Range in New Jersey: statewide
Heritage ranking, if any: n/a
Misc. USDA notes an obligate wetland species: Occurs almost always (estimated probability 99%) under natural conditions in wetlands.

In literature, both Thoreau and Frost were quite impressed with this orchid.

In 1852 Henry David Thoreau wrote of the snakemouth orchid: "the adder's-tongue arethusa smell exactly like a snake. How singular that in nature, too, beauty and offensiveness should be thus combined. In flower, as well as in men, we demand a beauty pure and fragrant, which perfumes the air. The flower which is showy but has no, or an offensive odor expresses the character of too many mortals."

Robert Frost, as a child, once came upon  a small wet clearing in the woods. He later recounted it in "Rose Pogonias".

A saturated meadow,
Sun-shaped and jewel-small,
A circle scarcely wider
Than the trees around were tall;
Where winds were quite excluded,
And the air was stifling sweet
With the breath of many flowers—
A temple of the heat.

There we bowed us in the burning,
As the sun's right worship is,
To pick where none could miss them
A thousands orchises;
For though the grass was scattered,
Yet every second spear
Seemed tipped with wings of color
That tinged the atmosphere.

We raised a simple prayer
Before we left the spot,
That in the general mowing
That place might be forgot;
Or if not also favored,
Obtain such grace of hours
That none should mow the grass there
While so confused with flowers.

("Rose Pogonias" originally published in A Boy's Will, 1913; reprinted in The Poetry of Robert Frost, Edward Connery Lathem, ed., Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1969.)