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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Rock Island Field Office staff Assist Jackson County Conservation Board in Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid Count

Region 3, July 6, 2012

Biologists from the Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office assisted Iowa’s Jackson County Conservation Board with their 2012 count of the threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea). There are only three known populations of eastern prairie fringed orchid remaining in Iowa, and the JCCB manages the largest of them. During this year’s census, approximately 63 flowering plants were counted by volunteers.

 

In 2002, the estimated population of the site was 2,259 flowering plants; however, the annual count dropped to 0 in 2007. Eastern prairie fringed orchids are found in wet prairie, and the fluctuating population of eastern prairie fringed orchids at this site has been attributed to lack of precipitation and changing levels of water in the marsh. The wetland’s berm, which became riddled with muskrat holes and began failing, was stabilized in the fall of 2010 with the help of Service’s Private Lands Program. A total of 247 flowering plants were found during the 2011 count, which was an increase from 19 plants in 2010. The drop in flowering plants this year is likely due at least in part to the drought. Despite efforts to stabilize the water levels, the water levels in 2012 were significantly lower than 2011.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov