Western Prairie Fringed Orchid in situ (Platanthera praeclara)

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I visited a population of Platanthera praeclara on July 6th. Normally this would be when the first plants were starting to bud (peak season here is July 12th-21st). This has been an unusually warm year, though, so many plants are 2-3 weeks ahead of "schedule." The population I visited was already well past prime. This is perhaps my favorite native MN orchid (I am also partial to Platanthera psycodes).

This plant is a federally listed endangered species. Its habitat is virgin, unplowed, ungrazed (well besides historic natural grazing, of course) tall-grass prairie. Minnesota is the stronghold for the species, as we're fortunate to have a few areas with undisturbed tall-grass prairies that have escaped the plow and cattle.

This particular grassland has been protected from the plow because it is very rocky. There are many rock outcroppings in the prairie. These outcroppings are amazing areas in themselves. They support two species of native cactus as well as rare, threatened, or endangered species. Anyways, onto the pictures...


Note the rock outcroppings evident in the background




I don't know if it's visible in this smaller size, but if you follow the link and see the full size, you'll note how LONG the nectary is on these orchids. They're pollinated by sphinx moths




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Thanks everyone for checking out the pictures!!

Neat! Certainly the most stunning white Plantenthera. Are those rock outcroppings glacial moraines? I'd love a shot of them too if you can post one. Thanks for all your unique habitat shots Tony.

Thanks for asking! These are outcroppings of quartzite bedrock. There are also many granite glacial erratic boulders throughout the prairie, as well as a long quartzite cliffline

First a couple pictures of the bedrock outcrops




Here is a granite, glacial erratic boulder


Here, a quartzite, glacial erratic boulder


Finally, the cliffline



Wow! Thanks for posting! This habitat is very different than the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in SE Manitoba that has a very large population of P. praeclara - the largest in Canada. It is a very rocky, wet, tall grass prairie. Where is your location? How many plants do you think are in there? Is it protected?
i always liked the lip on this one and those are wonderful habitat photos:clap:
Wow! Thanks for posting! This habitat is very different than the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in SE Manitoba that has a very large population of P. praeclara - the largest in Canada. It is a very rocky, wet, tall grass prairie. Where is your location? How many plants do you think are in there? Is it protected?

That sounds like it would be a wonderful place to visit. I prefer not to share the location of the population, but it is federally protected and usually has anywhere from 0-200 flowering plants in any given season. It is a very rocky and wet prairie, also, actually. The rock supports many xeric species, but also contains vernal pools and the sand covered areas are at least moderately mesic (as much as can be expected, given the substrate).

There is another population I visit (but it's a 5+ hour drive that I didn't have time to make this year) that has the largest population of this orchid in existence. It's on an beach ridge of an ancient glacial lake. It's absolutely incredible with many thousand plants in a good year!
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Thanks for the extra shots Tony! Looks like a great place to botanize. That last shot looks more like a scene out of Australia rather than Canada though!

It's an absolutely gorgeous place! It's actually in Minnesota, USA, though. I live in Minnesota, so all the pictures I post are from here :) We have a very lovely state with a very active and conservation minded Department of Natural Resources, which is great! If I remember, we have 43 native orchids in Minnesota!

You are correct, though, it's a wonderful place to botanize! I'll post a couple more pictures of plants I think are really neat in the area

This purple flower here is Prairie Fameflower (Talinum parviflorum). It is well adapted to the conditions with succulent leaves. What I think is neat about it is that the flower only opens for a few hours each afternoon.

I don't think most people know that Minnesota also has 3 native cactus species. They are not common and exist only in the more pristine prairie areas (which is usually only found in areas with bedrock outcropping). This first picture is of the Plains Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia macrorhiza)

This second cactus is the Brittle Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis). Like many Opuntia cacti, it has pads that can either drop off by wind, or be pulled off by a passing mammal's fur and dropped elsewhere, which can then root right onto the bare rock (though it usually has better luck if it happens to land on mossy areas) and start a new vegetative growth. Anyways, here is that cactus

and that species in fantastic bloom on bedrock outcroppings, here in MN
Wow, I'm amazed at how totally different the habitat is there from the NorthEast! I was wondering where all the trees went? :p

Have you ever seen the Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), Eric? I think that would be pretty neat, it's pretty darn similar :)

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