Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid
Scientific Name: Platanthera leucophaea
Other/Previous Names: Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2003
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This is a perennial species of scattered remnant wetland habitats and of mesic prairies that has undergone significant declines in population size and is at continued risk from further habitat change due to successional processes, land development, water table impacts and spread of invasive species.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1986. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2003.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents
Image of Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid
The Eastern and Western Prairie Fringed-orchids became recognized as separate species in 1986. The most obvious physical difference is that the flowers of the Western Prairie Fringed-orchid are slightly larger.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is a 0.5 to 1 m tall plant with long thin leaves, and a spike of 10 to 40 whitish flowers. The flowers, borne at the end of the flower stalk, are 1.8 to 2.5 cm wide and have a prominent fringed petal that is divided into three parts. Flowering occurs from late June to late July. Seed capsules ripen on the plants in late August or early September and release thousands of tiny seeds.
Distribution and Population
The distribution of the Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is centred around the Great Lakes, and the orchid reaches the northern extent of its range in southern Ontario. Estimates reported in 2003 are based on maximum counts made over the 1990s, and indicate that there are about 1050 Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchids across 20 populations in southern Ontario. There are also 14 known historical sites from which the orchid is extirpated.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid grows in wet prairies, fens, bogs, and occasionally old fields.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is a perennial plant that requires three to seven years to grow from seed to flowering size. It overwinters as a tuber with roots and a shoot bud. In spring, the bud begins developing and the young shoot emerges in late May. The tuber elongates and increases in size throughout the growing season. A new shoot bud and tuber form before winter. The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is notorious for large fluctuations in population size, and is adapted to changes in water level. It may remain dormant underground, or not flower, in areas that are either too wet or too dry. After several years of apparent absence, mass flowerings sometimes are produced when conditions are suitable. The flowers release fragrances at night that attract hawk moths; the moths feed on nectar and transfer pollen from flower to flower and from plant to plant. Seed germination and proper plant growth depend on a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between the plants' root system and a fungus that is present in the soil.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is most threatened by the limited amount of appropriate habitat that is available to it, and the continued loss of that habitat through its conversion to cropland. Other limiting factors include competition with alien invasive species, successional change, human impacts on water tables, and the collection of plants. Deer will graze on the flowering stems, and are sometimes abundant in habitats where the orchid grows, but the magnitude of this potential threat is currently unknown. Any threat to hawk moths (the pollinators of Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchids), such as the use of insecticides or habitat loss, is also a threat to the orchid.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid does not receive any specific protection under Ontario provincial law.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Other Protection or Status
The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid is listed under the Endangered Species Act in the United States, and is on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Prairie Fringed–orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry
Recovery Progress and Activities
Summary of Progress to Date The Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid recovery team aims to prevent any further loss of populations and habitat, to reverse the declining population trends at extant locations, and to restore occurrences at historic sites where appropriate. The recovery team has identified knowledge gaps that must be addressed in order to effectively plan recovery initiatives. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities In 2001 and 2002, approximately 20 Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid populations were surveyed in order to obtain demographic information. Information was collected about population sizes, the proportion of plants that were flowering, the number of flowers per plant, habitat type, threats to the populations and other factors that would aid in recovery planning. An intensive long-term monitoring program has recently been established. Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchids tend to cycle through stages of dormancy and activity, as well as exhibit large year to year fluctuations in population size, so the monitoring program must distinguish population trends from fluctuations. A research program will be developed to address the knowledge gaps regarding the orchid, including its habitat requirements, pollinators, competitors and other threats. Summary of Recovery Activities Most Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid populations are on public land. All-terrain vehicle (ATV) use threatens the orchid at one site and the recovery team is working with the municipal government to address this threat. An exotic variety of phragmites (also known as Common Reed) has been spreading rapidly in parts of southern Ontario since the early 1990s. Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchids and many other native species are outcompeted by this invasive species. Control methods are being tested in the St. Clair National Wildlife Area. A combination of prescribed burns and herbicide application is proving to be effective in controlling the invasive phragmites and increasing the abundance of Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
11 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (3 record(s) found.)
- Permits and Related Agreements (2 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statements - Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid (2004-04-21)A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.