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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Platanthera praeclara Shev. & Bowls.)

Western prairie fringed orchid

ORCHID FAMILY (Orchidaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: Perennial herb 4-10 dm. tall. Lower leaves are lance- like to broadly linear, 10-20 cm. long. Upper leaves are much reduced. Spike is cylindric, 8-20 cm. tall and 5-7 cm. wide. Sepals oval to obovate, 7-13 mm. Petals toothed, slightly longer than sepals. Lip 14-27 mm., deeply 3-lobed, long-fringed. Spur is 25-60 mm. long. In bloom late June to early July.

The very similar eastern prairie fringed orchid, P. leucophaea, has been segregated from P. praeclara by flower size and morphology, and largely occurs east of the Mississippi River.

Ragged fringed orchid (P. lacera) is also similar, but is not as tall and has a smaller lip (no more than 15 mm. long) and shorter spur (less than 20 mm. long).

Formerly, the genus Habenaria was applied to this group of orchids.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Western prairie fringed orchid is found in sedge meadows and wet to wet-mesic prairies, especially those that are calcareous or subsaline. The nearly total loss of its habitat has resulted in listing western prairie fringed orchid as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and, as endangered under Minnesota state law. The eastern prairie fringed orchid occurs in Wisconsin and is similarly listed as threatened by the ESA and endangered by the State of Wisconsin. Report any sightings to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or state department of natural resources. Do not disturb!

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Smith (1993); Coffin and Pfannmuller (1988); Great Plains Flora Association (1991).

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