A federally threatened species of orchid that hasn’t been confirmed in Vermont since 1902 has been found, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
Department botanists confirmed that a population of small whorled pogonia has been documented on Winooski Valley Park District conservation land in Chittenden County. To protect them, officials won’t say exactly where the orchids were found.
“Discovering a viable population of a federally threatened species unknown in our state for over a century is astounding,” said Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Botanist Bob Popp.
The small whorled pogonia is a globally rare orchid historically found across the eastern states and Ontario. Populations in Maine and New Hampshire are found in areas of partial sun, including forest edges and openings.
Previous searches for the species in Vermont have been unsuccessful.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Assistant Botanist Aaron Marcus said the department was first notified of a possible small whorled pogonia population in Vermont thanks to the observations of two community scientists: John Gange of Shelburne and Tom Doubleday of Colchester.
Popp, Marcus, Doubleday and Gange returned to the site together this spring and confirmed the presence of small whorled pogonia, which were in bloom at the time.
The department’s next steps will be to work with the Winooski Valley Park District to look for the small whorled pogonia on nearby conservation land and monitor the population to make sure this species has the best possible opportunity to flourish in Vermont’s portion of its native range.