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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Road to recovery of eastern prairie fringed orchid takes a new turn in Illinois

Region 3, August 6, 2014
The first step was to initiate a transect in appropritate eastern prairie fringed orchid habitat.
The first step was to initiate a transect in appropritate eastern prairie fringed orchid habitat. - Photo Credit: n/a
A bulb digger was used to help dig the holes.  A numbered metal ID tag was placed ajacent to the hole for future monitoring purposes.
A bulb digger was used to help dig the holes. A numbered metal ID tag was placed ajacent to the hole for future monitoring purposes. - Photo Credit: n/a
Carol Godoy (volunteer with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County) measures 20 ml of the soil inoculant (which was previously mixed with water) before placement in a predug hole.
Carol Godoy (volunteer with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County) measures 20 ml of the soil inoculant (which was previously mixed with water) before placement in a predug hole. - Photo Credit: n/a
The 20 ml of soil inoculant is then poured into the hole.
The 20 ml of soil inoculant is then poured into the hole. - Photo Credit: n/a
Scott Kobal (Forest Preserve District of DuPage County), Carol Godoy (FPDDC volunteer), Steve Sentoff (West Chicago Prairie site steward)and Wayne Lampa (FPDDC retired) work diligently establishing three transects for hole digging and inoculant pouring at West Chicago Prairie.
Scott Kobal (Forest Preserve District of DuPage County), Carol Godoy (FPDDC volunteer), Steve Sentoff (West Chicago Prairie site steward)and Wayne Lampa (FPDDC retired) work diligently establishing three transects for hole digging and inoculant pouring at West Chicago Prairie. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Chicago Field Office and the volunteer monitors of the federally threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid are embarking in a new direction with the hopes of moving closer to recovery for this prairie plant species.

 

Recent research by Dr. Lawrence Zettler, Illinois College, has isolated and identified the mycorrhizae (soil fungus) believed to be responsible for the successful germination of this orchid. Dr. Zettler was able to provide petri dishes with the mycorrhizae associated with this orchid to the Illinois orchid recovery group. In May, volunteer monitors established transects in suitable habitat at their orchid sites, dug holes every meter and inoculated the soil with 20 ml of this mycorrhizae following protocol established by Dr. Zettler. Each hole was marked and given a numbered metal ID tag. Every other hole was left empty as a control. The mycorrhizae are left in the soil to grow throughout the summer. In the fall, seed from this orchid will also be placed in these holes. If the process is successful, vegetative orchids, the ones with just one or two leaves, should appear after just one to two years.

Currently, if orchid seed is sown at a site, the wait time is six to nine years for a blooming orchid to appear. If vegetative orchids do appear after one to two years, this would be a much faster way of detecting whether or not the seed can become established at a site and thus either increase numbers of orchid plants at already occupied sites or establish new orchid sites.

Contact Info: Cathy Pollack, 847/ 608-3101, cathy_pollack@fws.gov