Rose Pogonia: A rose by any other name would still be an orchid


Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides (Linnaeus) Ker-Gawler) is a tiny rare beauty of bogs and fens in Manitoba. A great spot is a small but lovely fen right beside a provincial trunk highway where I went to find this rare beauty

I did manage to find them but there were very few in bloom. In fact I could hardly believe how few were in bloom and I was pretty sure I was there at the right time. What happened to them. I found less than half a dozen specimens where usually I find hundreds. This was not good.

Please notice the deadly spider hiding in wait for prey inside this beautiful orchid. Sometimes life can be harsh.

I did see some good specimens and conditions were great for photography, but the numbers were worryingly sparse. I wondered if I was too late, but did not see any past prime. The ones I saw were all in excellent condition. The fen was pretty dry and wondered if for some reason it had not rained much here. In fact I concluded this must be the explanation.

This is one of Manitoba’s gorgeous pink orchids. Pink is the colour of Manitoba’s finest orchids. I wondered why it was called Rose Pogonia. I learned that it received its species name, “Pogonia” from the similarity of its single slender leaf to that of the Adders Tongue Fern (Ophioglossum). Then according to one of the most famous naturalists of all time—Henry David Thoreau—“it smells exactly like a snake.” Could that be? What does a snake smell like? I have never tried to discover that. According to A guide to the Orchids of Bruce and Grey Counties, Ontario, written by a committee of Field Naturalists, like our Orchids of Manitoba, “Many enthusiasts disagree with Thoreau and find that the flowers have a delicate raspberry odour.” I am ashamed to say I did not stop to smell it. I am a pretty lame naturalist.

I took this photo in a better year as you can see by the other orchids  flowering in the background. I hope those good times return again.

In Romeo and Juliet a real romantic claimed that it did not matter that Romeo was from her family’s rival house of Montague. He was named Montague but still was just as good.

So perhaps in this case Shakespeare was right, as he usually is, when he wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” When  a rose is an orchid that is.

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