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Montana Field Guides

Hillside Rein Orchid - Piperia elegans
Other Names:  Habenaria elegans

Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 5

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Between 1902 and 2016 Piperia elegans has been observed at 202 locations in northwest Montana. Populations seem to be common and tolerant of some disturbances, such as from grazing and logging.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Hillside Rein Orchid (Piperia elegans) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 12/06/2016
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    ScoreF - 10,000 - 100,000 individuals

    Range Extent

    ScoreE - 5,000-20,000 sq km (~2,000-8,000 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreE - 26-125 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreD - 81 - 300

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreF - Very many (>125) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreB - Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreU - Unknown


    ScoreU - Unknown


    ScoreD - Low

    CommentNo known threats. Found in an old burn, reported ungrazed in area with livestock grazing, growing with Canada thistle, often growing on logging roads.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreA - Highly vulnerable

General Description
Plants: Perennial herb arising from tubers, the tubers 15-45 mm in length, with several fibrous roots (Douglas et al. 2001). Stems 25–70 cm (Lesica 2012), 2-12 mm in diameter (measured above basal leaves), simple (FNA 2002).

Leaves: Basal leaves 2-4 in number (Douglas et al. 2001), ephemeral, prostrate, sessile (FNA 2002), oblong, 7–20 cm in length (Lesica 2012), 1-7.5 cm in width; cauline leaves bractlike (Douglas et al. 2001), mostly 12-37 in number, as few as 4 (FNA 2002).

Inflorescence: An often crowded, spikelike raceme (Douglas et al. 2001), 9–30 cm in length; bracts 5–8 mm in length (Lesica 2012).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Flowers June-September (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

Species Range

Range Comments
BC to CA, ID and MT. In Montana, known from Flathead, Lake, and Lincoln Counties (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 252

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Drier, coniferous forest; valleys, montane (Lesica 2012), dry or briefly moist meadows and ditches in lowlands (Douglas et al. 2001).

(Lesica’s contribution from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Reproductive Characteristics
Flowers: Pleasantly musky, heavily scented at night (FNA 2002); sepals 4–5 mm in length (Lesica 2012), white with a green central nerve; the 2 lateral sepals widespreading, nearly lanceoloate to ovate-elliptic, a little longer than the upper sepal (FNA 2002); upper sepal mostly erect; petals white to light green, lanceolate (Douglas et al. 2001), 3-6 mm in length; lip petal white to light green, deltoid-lanceolate to lanceolate (FNA 2002), 3–5 mm in length; spur weakly curved, 8–12 mm in length (Lesica 2012).

Fruit: Capsule ascending to upright (Douglas et al. 2001), 6–8 mm in length (Lesica 2012); seeds brown (FNA 2002).

(Lesica’s contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar, editors. 2001. The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Volume 7. Monocotyledons (Orchidaceae through Zosteraceae). British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Victoria. iv + 379 pp.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. xxvi + 723 pp.
    • Hitchcock, C. L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J. W. Thompson. 1969. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part I: Vascular Cryptogams, Gymnosperms and Monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Hillside Rein Orchid — Piperia elegans.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from