Platanthera leucophaea

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Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid
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Platanthera leucophaea.jpg
Plant Info
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Liliopsida
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Order: Asparagales
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Family: Orchidaceae
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Genus: Platanthera
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Species: P. leucophaea
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Binomial name
Platanthera leucophaea
(Nutt.) Lindley
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Type Species

Platanthera leucophaea, the eastern prairie fringed orchid, is a rare orchid native to North America. It is listed as a threatened species in the United States, the IUCN does not recognise it as being at risk.

P. leucophaea arises from a fleshy tuber. The plant can grow up to three feet (91 cm) tall. The inflorescence is large and showy and may have up to 40 white flowers. The leaves are long and thin. It is distinguished from Platanthera praeclara, the western prairie fringed orchid, by its smaller flowers (less than one inch (2.5 cm) long), more oval petals, and a shorter nectar spur. The eastern prairie fringed orchid is a long-lived perennial plant. Its tuber rootstalk helps it survive grass fires. Fires and rain stimulate the plant to grow and flower. The plant emerges each year in May and flowering begins by late June. The flowers are pollinated at night by large sphinx moths.

P. leucophaea is found in moist to wet tallgrass prairie. In the eastern part of its range, it is found in wet sedge meadows. Historically, the eastern prairie fringed orchid occurred east of the Mississippi River and in Iowa and Missouri. Scattered populations are found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada. A historic record exists for Choctaw County, Oklahoma. The plant has not been observed in Oklahoma in the past 150 years. The major factor in the decline of the eastern prairie fringed orchid has been a loss of habitat due to grazing, fire suppression, and agricultural conversion.


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