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Platanthera leucophaea


 Platanthera leucophaea.
© Jeff Haperman,
Wisconsin State Herbarium.

The Eastern Prairie White Fringed Orchid Platanthera leucophaea is almost exclusively found in moist, circumneutral prairies, and is also occasionally found in open Sphagnum bogs. Its largest populations are centred in Illinois, where the numbers have dropped precipitously over the past few years, and it is now classified as federally threatened.

The orchid requires an undisturbed prairie habitat, but it faces a variety of threats.  It is affected by aggressive non-native species and has been overcollected because of its beauty.   In addition, the moth that pollinates the plant, an agricultural pest, is being eliminated by insecticides.

Climate change poses a new threat, and as the local climate dries and warms, it is possible that the species may go extinct.  Chicago Botanic Garden has been looking at the genetic composition of this species, and is currently working on a mapping project to predict the future impacts of climate change on populations of this species.