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Herbst, R - Galearis spectabilis; Orchid Conservation

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago


Rachel Herbst


PBIO 209


Dr. Kim Brown


4 March 2008


The Showy Orchid




            The Showy Orchid is a woody plant with breathtaking white, pink or slightly purple flowers. Although orchid species are seen as exotic and tropical, Galearis spectabilis can be found in the Eastern and Mid United States. Orchid species can grow in almost every environment, but they have very specific requirements for reproduction, growth and germination. The presence or absence of an orchid species in a particular habitat provides biologists and ecologists with specific clues and information and the natural location. Conservation is becoming more prevalent within the orchid species because like other rare plants, they survive best in their natural habitats for proper pollination and obtaining specific nutrients. Understanding orchid species across the world, or in your state, allows for understandings of the ecosystem and how important their contributions can be.


            Orchid species are some of the most productive species in the plant kingdom. There are over 20,000 species that have been found in almost every imaginable habitat, from the polar environments to alpine ecosystems, deserts and tropical forests. The Showy Orchid, Galearis spectabilis, can be found as far north as the eastern providences of Canada and as far south as Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas. The far western border of its distribution lies in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The showy orchid is found all along the eastern United States. It is found mainly in rich woods, which generally consist of rich maple or beech, and are commonly growing in more lime soils. This environment is generally classified as a Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forest biome.


            The Showy Orchid is a perennial species, meaning it continues to grow and flower over many years. It is found growing alone or in small groups, but can also become colonial. If they do form large colonies, they can thrive for decades if no habit disruptions, such as shading, force them out. Habitat disruptions are becoming the greatest threat to North American orchid species. Lands are becoming agriculturally developed and new housing projects or ‘developmental’ projects are consuming the lands.


            Disturbances, however, have helped the showy orchid species in some cases. This woodland species is often found at the edges of trails, where the light is more plentiful and only slight commotion in the soils. The Showy Orchids can also be found inhabiting tree fall areas in logs as the canopy has broken and allowed more sunlight to penetrate through. As forests recover from a disturbance like this, the Showy Orchid is generally pushed out and another species will inhabit the more fitting environment.


            Habitat threats to woodland orchid species, like the Galearis spectabilis, can also be aggressive and destructive. Two of the most common that threaten the Showy Orchid are while tail deer and alien mustard garlic. As the deer population increases, their shelter spaces become heavily disturbed and the forest understory is generally grazed to the soil. This poses a problem for the showy orchid because it’s habitat can be seen as a safe house to deer being hunted, a common occurrence in the orchid’s native distribution. Garlic mustard produces great numbers of seeds, which are distributed by deer and other forest animals. It is becoming an invasive species and taking over many forest understories’s, yet remains untouched by animals that do not seem to consume it. States that are seeing problems with their Showy orchid population include Maine where they are endangered; Michigan, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island where they are threatened and New York State where they are exploitable vulnerable.


            Orchid conservation generally takes two separate yet important forms, in situ and ex situ. In situ conservation, meaning “in place”, focuses on protection of the natural habitat where the species would be found in nature. This type of conservation is strongly supported, especially in areas with high biodiversity. However, this type of protection is not always possible. Some habitats can be too unsustainable through massive fragmentation, or pollinators may no longer be present in the area. Ex situ conservation is important in orchid protection also. Certain native orchid species have lost their entire natural habitat and only exist today in private or preserve lands.


            Presently there is an international organization that is helping protect not only orchids, but all endangered species. CITES, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, is a treaty restricting world trafficking of plants and animals; but also strictly controlling orchids. Some conservationists are unhappy with the policy however, as it can make it difficult to save various species. Orchid species can be replanted locally, following CITES guidelines, but this does not work for entire populations. When entire areas become flooded or cut down, the only real method of successful relocation is into cultivation, which CITES forbids. This small stipulation is putting a large damper on many conservation projects.




Bibliography of References


Iowa’s Wild Orchids [Internet]. [updated 2008]. Des Moines (IA): Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; [cited 2008 Feb 27]. Available from: http://www.inhf.org/orchids.htm



Native Pennsylvania Orchids [Internet]. [updated 2008]. (PA): The Nature Conservancy; [cited 2008 March 1]. Available from: http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/pennsylvania/files/orchidfactsheet.pdf



Orchid Conservation, The need for a balanced and rational approach [Internet]. [updated 2004 Jan 13]. San Francisco (CA): OrchidMania; [cited 2008 Feb 27]. Available from: http://www.orchids.org/conservation/index.html


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