Monday, January 23, 2012

A pretty little orchid

HS 212 f 55, Platanthera integra (Nutt.) A. Gray ex Beck.

This plant is the yellow fringeless orchid. Catesby collected one in Carolina. Look hard at his, because you probably won’t ever see it growing in the wild in this state.

Alan Weakley gives this range in his 2011 flora: “Savannas in the Coastal Plain, bogs in the Mountains and Piedmont. July-September. Essentially endemic to the Southeastern Coastal Plain, ranging from s. NJ south to FL and west to se. TX, with disjunct occurrences in TN (Eastern Highland Rim) and in bogs at low elevations of the Blue Ridge of NC. It is apparently now extirpated in the Mountains and Piedmont of NC.”

This large range notwithstanding, the yellow fringeless orchid is nearly extinct in South Carolina today. NatureServe lists it as critically imperiled in the state. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources listed it as S2 in 2006, meaning that it was imperiled state-wide because of rarity or factors making it vulnerable.

What threatens our little orchid? Land use conversion, habitat fragmentation, and forest management practices such as fire suppression all cause problems. So does collection – so if you see one, don’t dig it up to plant it at home! (That doesn’t work for orchids anyway – they need specialized soil fungi to survive, so a transplanted orchid will likely die.)