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A Talk on the Wild Side.

New Stamps Showcase Orchids Native to United States

   sheet of 10 postage stamps of orchidsPhoto by U.S. Postal Service

On February 21, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the exotic beauty of orchids with the release of 10 new Forever stamps, each featuring a photograph of a native U.S. species, including: California lady's slipper (Cypripedium californicum)crested coralroot orchid (Hexalectris spicata)showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae), lady's tresses (Spiranthes odorata)nodding pogonia (Triphora trianthophoros)greater purple fringed bog orchid (Platanthera grandiflora)yellow cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) and Eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea). The stamps were designed by Art Director Ethel Kessler using existing photographs taken by U.S. author and nature photographer Jim Fowler. The stamp series, called "Wild Orchids," will be unveiled at a ceremony in Coral Gables, Florida.

More than 400 orchid species are native to the United States and its territories. These fascinating plants occupy specialized habitats and have special relationships with pollinators and with soil fungi. Their beautiful flower shapes and colors serve the biological purpose of attracting specific pollinators to facilitate plant reproduction. Orchids are popular as houseplants and extracts taken from orchid plants are used in health and personal care products, as well as foods, such as vanilla. International trade of all orchids is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES. CITES is a treaty among more than 180 nations that regulates international trade in certain plant and animal species and their products to ensure that trade is not detrimental to the wild populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead agency implementing CITES in the United States. Most orchid species are included in CITES Appendix II and can be traded commercially, but commercial trade in a select few Appendix-I species and genera (none of which are U.S. native) is generally prohibited. The Eastern prairie fringed orchid is also protected as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended).

By Dr. Patricia De Angelis, International Affairs Program

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