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Service applauds Commonwealth Edison for eastern prairie fringed orchid recovery efforts
Midwest Region, August 18, 2016
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Damage caused by vehicular traffic to the habitat of an extant EPFO population in a ComEd right-of-way.
Damage caused by vehicular traffic to the habitat of an extant EPFO population in a ComEd right-of-way. - Photo Credit: USFWS
A blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid had a deer cage over, but was smashed from vehicular traffic within an extant population in a ComEd right-of-way.
A blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid had a deer cage over, but was smashed from vehicular traffic within an extant population in a ComEd right-of-way. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Prior to 2016, a low slung cable was the only barrier between off road vehicles and the eastern prairie fringed orchid population in the ComEd right-of-way.
Prior to 2016, a low slung cable was the only barrier between off road vehicles and the eastern prairie fringed orchid population in the ComEd right-of-way. - Photo Credit: USFWS
The new gate and fencing structure graciously provided by ComEd to protect the site from off road vehicular traffic.
The new gate and fencing structure graciously provided by ComEd to protect the site from off road vehicular traffic. - Photo Credit: USFWS
New orange snow fencing provided by ComEd, placed behind the new metal fence structure within the site and zigzagged around the area of blooming eastern prairie fringed orchids to further protect the plants from any type of damage.  New
New orange snow fencing provided by ComEd, placed behind the new metal fence structure within the site and zigzagged around the area of blooming eastern prairie fringed orchids to further protect the plants from any type of damage. New "sensitive area" signage was also graciously provided by ComEd. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid in 2016, caged to deter deer herbivory, and behind the new orange snow fencing.
Blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid in 2016, caged to deter deer herbivory, and behind the new orange snow fencing. - Photo Credit: USFWS

An extant population of the threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) occurs within a Com Ed right-of-way in northeastern Illinois. The number of plants that bloom every year is dependent upon a number of factors, including the amount of disturbance, the timing and amount of precipitation, and the type of land management (invasive species control, burns, etc.), if any, that the site receives. At this site the number of blooming eastern prairie fringed orchid plants has varied from one to 54, but has averaged eight blooming plants per year since 1991.

In 2015, the population had 54 blooming plants. The volunteer monitor at the site painstakingly hand pollinated many of the flowers on many of the plants which is very time consuming. She also constructed deer cages to protect the blossoms from deer herbivory. After these efforts, a visit to the site later within the growing season revealed a disheartening situation. Some type of vehicle had accessed the site and had driven over many of the caged orchids even though a cable fence was present.

Service staff met onsite with staff of Com Ed, who suggested a new fence and signage to keep vehicles out of the property. Com Ed also suggested a different access point to the site for vehicles that have a necessity to enter, in order to avoid the area where the orchid population is located. A prescribed burn was conducted this spring.

A visit to the site during the 2016 growing season revealed a new, much sturdier metal fence structure, new access gates (away from the population), new larger signage and snow fencing completely surrounding the orchid population. Needless to say, Service staff and the volunteers at the site were very surprised and very happy to see these results. This season, the eastern prairie fringed orchid population had 82 blooming plants, the highest number ever for this population.

Thank you Com Ed for your outstanding efforts in recovery of this federally listed species!


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