CPC Plant Profile: Western Prairie White-fringed Orchid
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Plant Profile

Western Prairie White-fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara)

This long-lived perennial emerges from its grassy habitat in May and floweres in July or July. These flowers are fragrant at night and pollinated by large sphinx (or hawk) moths. Photo Credit: J. Locklear
Description
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Orchidaceae
  • State: IA, KS, MB, MN, MO, ND, NE, OK, SD
  • Nature Serve ID: 159130
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

The fate of the western prairie fringed orchid is tied to that of the tallgrass prairie. This elegant wildflower, with its clusters of showy white flowers, was once found in grassy swales and meadows from Manitoba south into Oklahoma. Now, with the tallgrass prairie reduced to less than two-percent of its formerly vast range, this beautiful and unique grassland orchid is threatened with extinction.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/16/2020
  • Propagation Research

Several institutions, including TTU, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have been propagating the species.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Propagation Research

Several institutions, including TTU, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have been propagating the species.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Propagation Research

Several institutions, including TTU, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have been propagating the species.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Genetic Research

Starting in July 2013, Steven Travers at North Dakota State University began working on microsatellite marker development and genetic analyses of several populations in Minnesota.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Currently seed from one population is banked at MLA with another population banked at Chicago Botanic Garden.

  • 10/16/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Currently seed from one population is banked at MLA with another population banked at Chicago Botanic Garden.

David Remucal
  • 12/27/2017

MLA earned a Minnesota state grant in 2015 funding a program to bank seed from all of Minnesota's native orchid species, including P. praeclara. This encompasses research to increase longevity of banked seed, standardize propagation from seed and develop ex situ garden collections. Currently seed from one population is banked at MLA with another population banked at Chicago Botanic Garden.

David Remucal
  • 12/22/2017

As propagation research progresses, controlled reintroduction will be vital to gain an understanding on how to potentially re-establish this species in restored prairies.

David Remucal
  • 12/22/2017

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a recovery plan for the species statewide (Anderson and Sather, 2014) as part of this recovery work they also maintain a comprehensive bibliography for research on the species.

David Remucal
  • 12/22/2017

Starting in July 2013, Steven Travers at North Dakota State University began working on microsatellite marker development and genetic analyses of several populations in Minnesota.
Jyotsna Sharma at Texas Tech University has been examining mycorrhizal associates across the range of the species.
Several institutions, including TTU, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum have been propagating  the species.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as part of their recovery plan for the species has been conducting monitoring across several populations.

David Remucal
  • 12/22/2017

Increased presence and dominance of Phalaris arundinacea in typical native habitat.
Increased irrigation and encroaching development changing hydrologic regimes.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Known from 172 extant occurrences scattered throughout the western Central Lowlands and eastern Great Plains of the United States and the Interior Plains of Manitoba, Canada. Only 4 populations - all of them in the northern part of the range - are large (1000+ plants). All populations in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma have fewer than 50 individuals. The species may have been extirpated in South Dakota. Published accounts and herbarium records suggest that P. praeclara was widespread and perhaps locally common prior to European settlement. Declines are due to the extensive and on-going conversion of the tallgrass prairie to agricultural uses throughout the range.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Role of disturbance in maintaining population vigor. Reintroduction studies. Protect and manage existing populations. Monitor populations.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Propagation studies. Long term germplasm storage studies. Establish seed bank.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Conversion of pasture and hayfield habitat to cropland. Habitat fragmentation. Fire suppression and woody plant encroachment. Invasion by noxious weeds. Herbicides and insecticides. Hydrologic changes. Intensive cattle grazing and trampling.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

175 known occurrences (USFWS 1996). Largest populations, some with as many as 1,000+ individuals, are found in the northern part of its range in MN and ND. Most populations in KS, MO and OK have fewer than 50 individuals.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Research on propagation, pollination, population genetics, and habitats requirements has been performed on this species. (Norby 1997; Bjugstad-Porter 1993; From and Read 1998; Pleasants 1993, 1995a, 1995b)

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Management Guidelines for the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid have been developed at the Cheyenne National Grassland, Dakota Prairie Grasslands. (Cheyenne Ranger District 1999)

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Nomenclature
Taxon Platanthera praeclara
Authority (Sheviak & Bowles)
Family Orchidaceae
CPC Number 9293
ITIS 196423
USDA PLPR4
Common Names Western Prairie White-Fringed Orchid | Western White-fringed Orchid | Great Plains White Fringed Orchid | Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Associated Scientific Names Habenaria leucophaea var. praeclara | Platanthera praeclara | Blephariglottis praeclara | Fimbriella praeclara
Distribution The historic distribution of this taxon follows that of tallgrass prairie: South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska. Today, the largest numbers of this flowering herb is on land preserves under the management of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. North Dakota is also home to a number of individuals in its Sheyenne National Grassland, managed by the USDA Forest Service (Goedeke 2008).
State Rank
State State Rank
Iowa S2
Kansas S1
Manitoba S1
Minnesota S1
Missouri S1
North Dakota S2
Nebraska S2
Oklahoma SH
South Dakota SH
Habitat

This orchid species occurs in mesic upland tallgrass prairie in the southern part of its range, often in swales, and wet-mesic tallgrass prairie and sedge meadows in the northern part of its range. Also, it is known from prairies and swales in sand dune complexes that are fed by shallow underground water.

Ecological Relationships

According to Sheviak and Bowles (1986), this taxon is pollinated by hawkmoths of the Family Sphingidae. It is closely related to the eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), which generally occurs east of the Mississippi River and has somewhat smaller flowers (Sheviak and Bowles 1986).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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