WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Efforts are Underway to Establish a Population of the Federal Threatened Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid on the New HACKMATACK National Wildlife Refuge

Region 3, October 31, 2017
A blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid from one Illinois population.
A blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid from one Illinois population. - Photo Credit: n/a
A map showing the authorized boundaries of the new Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Illinois.
A map showing the authorized boundaries of the new Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Illinois. - Photo Credit: n/a
Seed capsules of the eastern prairie fringed orchid.  Notice that some capsules are plump and some are skinny.  Research has shown that the plump capsules contain more seeds than the skinny capsules, and a higher percentage of those seeds are viable, most likely the result of cross pollination of that particular flower.
Seed capsules of the eastern prairie fringed orchid. Notice that some capsules are plump and some are skinny. Research has shown that the plump capsules contain more seeds than the skinny capsules, and a higher percentage of those seeds are viable, most likely the result of cross pollination of that particular flower. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2012. As planned, it will be an urban refuge with noncontiguous properties of varying habitats such as tallgrass prairie patches, wetlands and oak savanna. Located in the northwestern region of the Chicago metropolitan area and southern part of the Milwaukee area, the refuge’s proposed boundaries encompass parts of McHenry County, Illinois (about 85 percent), and Walworth County, Wisconsin (about 15 percent).

The name Hackmatack is an Algonquin term for the American tamarack, a conifer formerly abundant in regional wetlands.

As proposed, the refuge could eventually cover 11,200 acres of land in Illinois and Wisconsin, which will complement the 23,000 acres already acquired for public use or under environmental protection. Existing parklands adjacent to the proposed refuge’s boundaries include several McHenry County Conservation District areas.

Biologists from the Chicago Field Office worked together with staff from the McHenry County Conservation District to distribute seed capsules of the eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) within appropriate habitat on land designated as the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. The seeds were collected from two existing healthy populations from both McHenry County Conservation District land and from Cook County Forest Preserve land. This is a long-term project: it typically may take from 5 to 9 years for the first blooming plant(s) to appear. Augmentation of this year’s seed will take place for the next 5 years as long as nearby populations are not seed limited.

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