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Abbott Laboratories staff lend a hand
to help the eastern prairie fringed orchid

A volunteer uses a toothpick to hand-pollinate an eastern prairie fringed orchid. Photo by Cathy Pollack/USFWS.

A volunteer uses a toothpick to hand-pollinate an eastern prairie fringed orchid. Photo by Cathy Pollack/USFWS.

By Cathy Pollack
Chicago Ecological Services Field Office

Abbott Laboratories is an American health care company with its headquarters in Lake Bluff, Illinois. One portion of its large campus includes 160 acres of undeveloped land. Forty of these acres support a naturally occurring population of the federally threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid. Blooming plants actually occur in three separate areas across the 40 acres. Over the years, the numbers of blooming plants have ranged from three to 154 annually.

At other Illinois orchid populations, volunteers monitor and hand pollinate the eastern prairie fringed orchid, but because Abbott’s populations of orchids cover such a large area and are so remote, transporting volunteers to the site to complete demographic data collection, hand cross pollination and seed capsule monitoring was difficult. The number of blooming orchids per year dictates how much time volunteers need to spend at the site. The higher the number of blooming plants at a site, the more time consuming hand pollination is required to ensure annual seed set for maintenance of the population. Typically, during this orchid’s bloom period, temperatures are in the 90s with high humidity, which are difficult working conditions.

This year, staff from Abbott Laboratories graciously and wholeheartedly welcomed the opportunity to volunteer their time and energy to complete the annual demographic data collection and hand pollination of this plant. This year the population had 30 blooming plants. Better yet, these energetic people are committed to taking on the responsibility of continuing this work annually and are excited to be part of the orchid’s recovery effort. We sincerely thank Abbott Laboratory volunteers, for their commitment in recovering this species.

Last updated: June 8, 2020