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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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North Dakota's Endangered and Threatened Species

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Platanthera praeclara

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

Status: Threatened

The western prairie fringed orchid is a perennial which grows up to three feet high and is distinguished by large, white flowers that come from a single stem. The flowers are fringed on the margins giving them a feathery appearance.

Historically, the orchid was found throughout tall grass regions of North America. Today there are 172 sites remaining in six states and one population complex in Manitoba. North Dakota has the largest population left in the world numbering over 2,000 individuals and is located in the Sheyenne National Grasslands in the southeastern corner of the state.

Habitat desired by the orchid includes moist, tall grass prairie and sedge meadows. The vegetative shoots emerge in late May and the flowers from mid-June to late July. The plant can display flowers for about 21 days with individual flowers lasting up to ten days. Pollination must occur for seed production and appears to be accomplished by hawk moths.

The major historical cause of the species decline has been conversion of prairie habitat to cropland. However, hydrologic changes that draw down or contaminate the water table may also adversely affect the orchid. Other land management practices such as burning, grazing, and mowing may affect the species depending on their timing, frequency, and intensity. Herbicides and leafy spurge also impact orchid numbers.

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