Photo of a Large Whorled Pegonia.
Photo: Loyal A. Mehrhoff

The Large Whorled Pogonia is an orchid with a single yellowish-green flower that grows above a whorl of green leaves and can attain a height of 30 centimetres. It lives in moist, deciduous or mixed forests and obtains nutrients through soil fungi.

Protecting and recovering species at risk in Ontario

Species at risk recovery is a key part of protecting Ontario’s biodiversity. Biodiversity – the variety of living organisms on Earth – provides us with clean air and water, food, fibre, medicine and other resources that we need to survive.

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the Government of Ontario’s legislative commitment to protecting and recovering species at risk and their habitats. As soon as a species is listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under the ESA, it is automatically protected from harm or harassment. Also, immediately upon listing, the habitats of endangered and threatened species are protected from damage or destruction.

Under the ESA, the Ministry of Natural Resources (the Ministry) must ensure that a recovery strategy is prepared for each species that is listed as endangered or threatened. A recovery strategy provides science-based advice to government on what is required to achieve recovery of a species.

Government response statements

Within nine months after a recovery strategy is prepared, the ESA requires the Ministry to publish a statement summarizing the government’s intended actions and priorities in response to the recovery strategy. The recovery strategy for Large Whorled Pogonia (Isotria verticillata) was published on June 15, 2012.

The response statement is the government’s policy response to the scientific advice provided in the recovery strategy. All recommendations provided in the recovery strategy were considered and this response statement identifies those that are considered to be appropriate and necessary for the protection and recovery of the species. In addition to the strategy, the response statement is based on input from stakeholders, other jurisdictions, Aboriginal communities and members of the public. It reflects the best available traditional, local and scientific knowledge at this time and may be adapted if new information becomes available. In implementing the actions in the response statement, the ESA allows the Ministry to determine what is feasible, taking into account social and economic factors.

The Large Whorled Pogonia is an orchid with a single yellowish-green flower that grows above a whorl of green leaves and can attain a height of 30 centimetres. It lives in moist, deciduous or mixed forests and obtains nutrients through soil fungi.

Moving forward to protect and recover the Large Whorled Pogonia

The Large Whorled Pogonia is listed as an endangered species under the ESA, which protects both the plant and its habitat. The ESA prohibits harm or harassment of the species and damage or destruction of its habitat without authorization. Such authorization would require that conditions established by the Ministry be met.

The Large Whorled Pogonia is in the Carolinian forests in southwestern Ontario. This species can remain dormant underground for many years and therefore may persist undetected for long periods, possibly for decades. Although the last recorded observation of the

Large Whorled Pogonia in Ontario was in 1996, the species is presumed to still exist at two locations and possibly exist at a third. It is presumed extirpated at a fourth location where it was last seen in 1879. Determining if any Canadian populations are still in existence (but currently dormant) is a knowledge gap in urgent need of filling for the recovery of this species. Habitat degradation due to land clearing, incompatible forestry practices, and trampling has likely played a significant role in the decline of this species. Other threats include flooding, the effects of atmospheric pollutants, and invasive plant species.

The Large Whorled Pogonia has been assessed as a globally secure species that has never been known to be common in Ontario, although historical surveys may have been limited. Propagation of the species in the wild has had limited success, which may in part be due to the specific mycorrhizal fungal associations required with the roots in the soil. Research into propagation techniques is underway in the U.S. Since it is uncertain whether Large Whorled Pogonia currently exists in Ontario, the main focus of recovery efforts is on confirming its presence and maintaining it at the existing locations. The government’s goal for the recovery of Large Whorled Pogonia is to confirm its presence and maintain the persistence of the species' populations and habitats in southern Ontario.

Protecting and recovering species at risk is a shared responsibility. No single agency or organization has the knowledge, authority or financial resources to protect and recover all of Ontario’s species at risk. Successful recovery requires inter-governmental co-operation and the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities.

In developing the government response statement, the Ministry considered what actions are feasible for the government to lead directly and what actions are feasible for the government to support its conservation partners to undertake.

Government-led actions

To help protect and recover the Large Whorled Pogonia, the government will directly undertake the following actions:

  • Develop a survey protocol to be used by proponents and partners to survey for the presence of Large Whorled Pogonia.
  • Educate other agencies and authorities involved in planning and environmental assessment processes on the protection requirements under the ESA.
  • Encourage the submission of Large Whorled Pogonia data to the Ministry’s central repository at the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
  • Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species at risk in Ontario.
  • Protect the Large Whorled Pogonia and its habitat through the ESA.
  • Support conservation, agency, municipal, industry partners and Aboriginal communities
  • To undertake activities to protect and recover the Large Whorled Pogonia. Support will be provided where appropriate through funding, agreements, permits (including conditions) and advisory services.
  • Establish and communicate annual priority actions for government support in order to encourage collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.

Government-supported Actions

The government endorses the following actions as being necessary for the protection and recovery of the Large Whorled Pogonia. Actions identified as "high" will be given priority consideration for funding or for authorizations under the ESA. The government will focus its support on these high-priority actions over the next five years.

Focus area: inventory and Monitoring

Objective: Confirm the existence of Large Whorled Pogonia populations and determine their extent and abundance.


  1. (High) Conduct surveys for Large Whorled Pogonia at the sites where it may currently exist and, if found, document information about the population levels and demographics, its habitat, and any threats that may be present. Surveys may need to be carried out over a number of consecutive years, given dormancy periods, to determine if the species is still present.
  2. Conduct surveys at locations with potentially suitable habitat to determine if Large Whorled Pogonia is present.

Focus area: Protection and Management

Objective: Protect and manage habitat to maintain existing populations in Ontario.


  1. Encourage stewardship activities to reduce threats to the species and its habitat at the sites where it may currently exist by maintaining suitable habitat conditions, removing invasive species, and reducing pedestrian traffic near occurrences.

Focus area: Awareness

Objective: Increase awareness about the significance, uniqueness and vulnerability of the Large Whorled Pogonia.


  1. Provide information to orchid enthusiasts and other key stakeholders regarding the risks to Large Whorled Pogonia from inadvertent trampling and collecting.

Implementing actions

Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario, Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program or Community Fisheries and Wildlife Involvement Program. Conservation partners are encouraged to discuss project proposals related to the actions in this response statement with the Ministry. The Ministry can also advise if any authorizations under the ESA or other legislation may be required to undertake the project.

Implementation of the actions may be subject to changing priorities across the multitude of species at risk, available resources and the capacity of partners to undertake recovery activities. Where appropriate, the implementation of actions for multiple species will be co-ordinated across government response statements.

Reviewing progress

The ESA requires the Ministry to conduct a review of progress towards protecting and recovering a species not later than five years from the publication of this response statement. The review will help identify if adjustments are needed to achieve the protection and recovery of the Large Whorled Pogonia.


We would like to thank all those who participated in the development of the "Recovery Strategy for the Large Whorled Pogonia (Isotria verticillata) in Ontario" for their dedication to protecting and recovering species at risk.