Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid ( Platanthera leucophaea)
Photo courtesy of Mike Redmer
eastern prairie fringed orchid is a federally threatened species.
Threatened species are animals and plants that are likely to become
endangered in the foreseeable future. Endangered species are animals
and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Identifying,
protecting, and restoring endangered and threatened species is
the primary objective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
endangered species program.
is the eastern prairie fringed orchid?
eastern prairie fringed orchid is 1 of at least 200 North American
- Appearance - This plant is 8 to 40 inches tall and has an upright leafy stem
with a flower cluster called an inflorescence. The 3 to 8 inch
lance-shaped leaves sheath the stem. Each plant has one single
flower spike composed of 5 to 40 creamy white flowers. Each flower
has a three-part fringed lip less than 1 inch long and a nectar
spur (tube-like structure) which is about 1 to 2 inches long.
Requirements - The eastern prairie fringed orchid occurs in
a wide variety of habitats, from mesic prairie to wetlands such
as sedge meadows, marsh edges, even bogs. It requires full sun
for optimum growth and flowering and a grassy habitat with little
or no woody encroachment. A symbiotic relationship between the
seed and soil fungi, called mycorrhizae, is necessary for seedlings
to become established. This fungi helps the seeds assimilate nutrients
in the soil.
History - This orchid is a perennial herb that grows from an
underground tuber. Flowering begins from late June to early July,
and lasts for 7 to 10 days. Blossoms often rise just above the height
of the surrounding grasses and sedges. The more exposed flower clusters
are more likely to be visited by the hawkmoth pollinators, though
they are also at greater risk of being eaten by deer. Seed capsules
mature over the growing season and are dispersed by the wind from
late August through September.
- Reproduction/Pollination - Night flying hawkmoths pollinate the nocturnally fragrant flowers
of this white orchid. Visiting hawkmoths inadvertantly collect pollen
on their proboscises as they ingest nectar from the flower’s long
is the eastern prairie fringed orchid threatened?
Decline - Early decline was due to the loss of habitat, mainly
conversion of natural habitats to cropland and pasture.
Decline - Current decline is mainly due to the loss of habitat
from the drainage and development of wetlands. Other reasons for
the current decline include succession to woody vegetation, competition
from non-native species and over-collection.
is being done to prevent extinction of the eastern prairie fringed
- Listing - The eastern prairie fringed orchid was added to the U.S. List
of Endangered and Threatened Species on September 28, 1989 which
benefits the species by focusing attention and money on its conservation.
Plan - In September 1999 a recovery plan was completed by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which delineates reasonable
actions needed to recover and/or protect this orchid. The purpose
of the plan is to promote the conservation of the threatened eastern
prairie fringed orchid by implementing identified tasks.
Plan Actions - Protect habitat, manage habitat, increase size
and numbers of populations, conduct surveys on known populations,
conduct research, and review progress.
can I do to help prevent the extinction of species?
- Learn - Learn more about the eastern prairie fringed orchid and
other endangered and threatened species. Understand how the destruction
of habitat leads to loss of endangered and threatened species
and our nation’s plant and animal diversity. Tell others about
what you have learned.
- Join – Join a conservation group; many have local chapters. Volunteer
at a known orchid site to help with annual demographic data collection
or to help with prescribed burns at these sites. Or volunteer
at a local nature center, zoo, or wildlife refuge.
- Protect – Protect remaining wetland areas by not filling them for residential
or commercial development. Protect native plant species: do not
plant non-native invasive plant species in your gardens or landscape
projects. Protect water quality by minimizing use of lawn chemicals
(i.e., fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides), recycling used
car oil, and properly disposing of paint and other toxic household
Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid Recovery Plan (63-page PDF; 911KB)
more information contact:
Fish & Wildlife Service
Chicago Illinois Field Office
1250 South Grove St., Ste. 103
Federal Relay Service 1-800-877-8339
Fact Sheet Revised April
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