The genus Cleistes consists of a couple dozen species in the family Orchidaceae that occur in North and South America. It is closely related to the genus Pogonia and many species were at one time included in that genus.
Cleistes bifaria is one of the most striking orchids within its range. It grows along the wetter margins of flatwoods, wet prairies, seepage slopes, and moist meadows. There was once only one species in the southern United States, but after relatively recent DNA analysis, it has been divided into two species. This species occurs near the coast from Mississippi through the panhandle of Florida north to North Carolina with additional populations in uplands of Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia. It is a species adapted to a fire influenced ecology and suffers somewhat from the supression of natural burning in the southeast United States. The fifth picture shows how hard the foliage is to detect when not in flower and the sixth picture is of a nearly mature seed pod. Photos of wild plants in Bay and Gulf Counties, Florida. Photos by Alani Davis.