Plants and Animals

Pyrola minor Lesser pyrola

Key Characteristics

Perennial forb of woodlands in the Upper Peninsula; leaves green, basal, and flat; flower strongly radially symmetrical; flower bell-shaped, 3.0 to 7.0 mm wide; sepal margins entire; style straight and shorter than 1.8 mm, extends little outside of flower if at all. The style distinguishes this species from other Michigan Pyrola spp. and the similar looking one-sided pyrola (Orthilia secunda).

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: SNR - Not ranked


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger 2 1973
Chippewa 3 1993
Houghton 3 1936
Keweenaw 5 1994
Luce 2 1991

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Known Michigan occurrences are all in the Upper Peninsula. Found in young woods, under conifers, on rocky ground, and low bluffs above Lake Superior.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera), blue wild-rye (Elymus glaucus), black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), one-sided Pyrola (Orthilia secunda), jack pine (Pinus banksiana), red pine (P. resinosa), white pine (P. strobus), large-leaved shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica), pink Pyrola (P. asarifolia), stiff clubmoss (Spinulum annotinum), and white cedar (Thuja occidentalis).

Management Recommendations

The species requires protection of its rocky habitat from human foot traffic or clifftop and forest development. Off-road-vehicle traffic should be avoided in occupied habitat.

Survey Methods

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

  • Meander search

    • Survey Period: From first week of June to fourth week of August


Survey References

  • Elzinga, C.L., D.W. Salzer, and J.W. Willoughby. 1998. Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, Denver. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1. 477pp.
  • Goff, G.F., G.A. Dawson, and J.J. Rochow. 1982. Site examination for Threatened and Endangered plant species. Environmental Management 6(4): 307-316
  • Nelson, J.R. 1984. Rare Plant Field Survey Guidelines. In: J.P. Smith and R. York. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 3rd Ed. California Native Plant Society, Berkeley. 174pp.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1986. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques For Impact Assessment. Natural Areas Journal 5(3):18-30.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1987. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques for Impact Assessment. In: Conservation and management of rare and endangered plants. Ed. T.S. Elias. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 8pp.

Technical References

  • Freeman, C.C. 2009 Pyrola. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 8, pp. 371–383. Available at:
  • Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second edition. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 910pp.
  • Haber, E. 1984. A comparative study of Pyrola minor x Pyrola asarifolia (Ericaceae) and its parental species in North America. Canadian Journal of Botany 62: 1054–1061.
  • Voss, E.G., and A.A. Reznicek. 2012. Field Manual of Michigan Flora. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI. 1008 pp.