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Abbott Staff Lend a Helping Hand to the Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid
Midwest Region, November 19, 2019
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An eastern prairie fringed orchid in full bloom.
An eastern prairie fringed orchid in full bloom. - Photo Credit: Kim Roman
Initially 10 Abbott employee volunteers offered to help monitor and hand pollinate the eastern prairie fringed orchid which occurs on Abbott property.
Initially 10 Abbott employee volunteers offered to help monitor and hand pollinate the eastern prairie fringed orchid which occurs on Abbott property. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Abbott employees gather demographic data, erect deer cages around the plants (so that deer do not eat the flowers), and hand pollinate the eastern prairie fringed orchid.
Abbott employees gather demographic data, erect deer cages around the plants (so that deer do not eat the flowers), and hand pollinate the eastern prairie fringed orchid. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Hand pollination of the eastern prairie fringed orchid requires only a toothpick and pollen from another plant.
Hand pollination of the eastern prairie fringed orchid requires only a toothpick and pollen from another plant. - Photo Credit: USFWS

Abbott is a global healthcare company with headquarters in Abbott Park, Illinois. A federally threatened orchid species, the eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), grows in sedge meadows and marshes on an undeveloped parcel of land owned by Abbott near its headquarters. Monitoring these plants during the bloom period can be difficult given that the site is not easily accessible and that the plants bloom in three different locations, spread over approximately 100 acres.

 

Abbott offered its employees the opportunity to volunteer to help monitor the plants on their property. Over the summer on the first day for monitoring the plants, 10 employees graciously volunteered their time. The Abbott employees hand pollinated the blooming orchids and tagged each plant with an identification tag, taking detailed demographic data, and erecting cages around the plants to prevent deer from eating the flowers before they can set seed. In the fall, the volunteers went back out to find each previously blooming plant to record the success of seed capsule development.

Since that first day, the 10 original volunteers have recruited additional Abbott employee volunteers who help manage the health of the orchids’ wetland habitat. In 2019, the volunteers also conducted an experiment to help determine the role that a soil fungus may play in the successful germination of the eastern prairie fringed orchid from seed. This is a long-term study, as experiment results are not expected to be observed for four to nine years. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is very appreciative and grateful for the Abbott employees’ contributions to the ongoing effort to recover this species.


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