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Orthilia secunda
Orthilia secunda
Orthilia secunda
Orthilia secundaSynonymsOrthilia obtustata, Pyrola secunda.  (One-sided Wintergreen)
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Above: Lizard Head Trail, July 18, 2012 and Roadside near Madden Peak, August 29, 2017.
Left: Kilpacker Trail, July 22, 2004.

Orthilia secunda very often occurs in large colonies (see the above photograph) and this growth habit plus the plants' vibrant green leaves do a fine job of catching our eye as we walk through Engelmann Spruce forests.

From the center of the leaves, one flower stem arises vertically and then arches over horizontally to support 4-8 secund flowers, i.e., the flowers all twist to one side of the stem. The flowers are quite small and from the height of a human (and even when you are down on your human belly) it is hard to tell if the flowers are open.

Orthilia secunda will frequently be found at the shady base of Engelmann Spruce in the company of tiny Moneses uniflora, other Pyrolas, and the Orchidaceae, Goodyera oblongifolia.  In the southwestern San Juans, Orthilia secunda is by far the most common of these dainty plants, all of which often escape our attention because of their diminutive size.  All possess delicate, intricate beauty observable when one gets down to their level.

Orthilia secunda
Orthilia secundaSynonymsOrthilia obtustata, Pyrola secunda.  (One-sided Wintergreen)
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Winter Trail, July 10, 2009.

Linnaeus named the genus Pyrola in 1753 and he named this species Pyrola secunda.  Constantine Rafinesque created the genus Orthilia in 1840, and Homer House renamed this species Orthilia secunda.

William Weber maintains that there are two similar species, O. secunda and O. obtustata, primarily distinguished by the shape of their leaves. John Kartesz, the ultimate authority for names on this web site, indicates that there is just one species, and the Flora of North America, Intermountain Flora, and A Utah Flora agree. FNA indicates, "the... characters [used to separate the supposed two species] vary too freely among populations to warrant distinction".  

The Greek "ortho" ("straight") refers to the style and, as indicated above, "secunda" means "side-flowering", i.e., flowers are on one side of the flowering stem.

See also Pyrola asarifolia.

Orthilia secunda
Orthilia secundaSynonymsOrthilia obtustata, Pyrola secunda.  (One-sided Wintergreen)
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Kilpacker Trail, July 17, 2006.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Orthilia secunda  

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