Triphora trianthophoros (Sw.) Rydb.

Three Birds Orchid

Facts About

Accepted Synonyms: Pogonia trianthophoros, Arethusa trianthophoros

Triphora trianthophoros, commonly called Three Birds Orchid, is distributed in the central and eastern United States, from Texas to Maine, and north into Ontario. It produces 2-6 small leaves on its purplish green stem, and bears up to 4 pink or rarely white flowers that last for only a few days. The labellum is three-lobed and has three green ridges in the center. It is found in dry to mesic forests, woodlands, thickets, and occasionally in swamps.

Triphora trianthophoros is considered globally vulnerable, and it is rare throughout much of its range. It may persist as subterranean tuberoids for long periods, complicating census and conservation efforts.


This orchid is pollinated by many different insects including; Augochlora pura, Ceratina dupla, Lasioglossum cressonii, Lasioglossum illinoense, Lasioglossum macoupinense, Lasioglossum obscurum, Lasioglossum quebecense, Lasioglossum versans and species of Bombus and Sphecodes. Pollination occurs when the bee follows the ultraviolet nectar guides and enters the floral tube in search of nectar. To reach the nectar at the base of the labellum, the bee crawls under the column. As the bee leaves it likely ruptures the rostellar membrane and pollinaria become attached to the hairs of the dorsal thorax. The bee, with pollinia attached, visits another flower and transfers the pollen to the stigma.

Ecosystem Type

Forests, shrublands or thickets, woodlands


Leaf arrangement:
Number of leaves on stem:
  • two
  • three
  • four
  • five
  • six
Form of the labellum:
the labellum is not pouch-like
Labellum outline:
the labellum is lobed
Main color of labellum:
  • pink to red
  • white
Nectar spur:
Inflorescence type:
  • the inflorescence has one flower or a pair of flowers
  • the inflorescence is a raceme
Labellum characteristics:
the labellum is lobed
Labellum length:
8–20 mm
Sepal length:
11–15 mm
Plant height:
7–30 cm
Show All Characteristics

Native to North America


North American Conservation Status & Distribution

Conservation Status

Select a location to view conservation status:

Conservation and Wetland Status
Global Rank Vulnerable
US Status N/A
Canadian Status Endangered

North America Distribution

Adapted from USDA data