Western Prairie Fringed Orchid - Platanthera praeclara -Threatened
Description: The Western prairie fringed orchid is a perennial plant which means it may live for many years. The orchid shows itself in late May and begins to bloom in mid-June through late July. This plant species can grow up to 4 feet tall and have as many as 20 flowers on a single stem. Its flowers are white to creamy-colored with frayed edges, giving the flowers a feathery look.
Range: This plant species was originally found throughout the tallgrass prairies of North America. They prefer moist habitats and require direct sunlight. In North Dakota there is a large, scattered population of over 2,000 plants in the southeastern part of the state.
Habitat: The Western prairie fringed orchid can be found in moist tallgrass prairies and sedge meadows. In North Dakota, the orchid is common among reedgrass and rushes or areas where these plants meet big bluestem and little bluestem.
Reasons for Population Decline: The main reason for the orchids decline is the loss of the prairie habitat due to expanding croplands.
Road to Recovery: Approximately one-quarter of known Western prairie fringed orchid sites are protected in preserves or other publicly managed areas. Other Western prairie fringed orchid sites are on private lands where the farmers maintain the population through careful agricultural planning.
Credit: Barnes, Dr. Thomas G./University of Kentucky