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Polk County’s Most Wanted – Plant!

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, Conserving Carolina and botanist/ecologist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Polk County’s Most Wanted—Plant,” the beautiful Ragged Fringed Orchid (Platanthera lacera).

Widely distributed throughout eastern North America, extending from Texas up to the Canadian Maritime provinces, the Ragged Fringed Orchid is an uncommon to rare denizen of bogs, swamps, and seepages. The plants typically range in size from one to two feet in height and have four to six alternate leaves. The Ragged Fringed Orchid is aptly named, the lip and sepals on its flowers are deeply incised, giving rise to a torn or ‘ragged’ looking appearance. Close inspection of the flowers actually shows them to be quite exquisite. When not in flower, this species can be very cryptic and it readily blends in with the grasses, sedges, and rushes that share its wetland home.

In our region, the Ragged Fringed Orchid blooms from late June to mid-July. Look for it in sunny openings in bogs, seepages, and other swampy sites. Sometimes, observers may be fortunate and see many individuals flowering in one place, however, seeing one or just a few plants at a site is more typical.

Although there is a record of this lovely orchid from Polk County, it has not been seen or recorded in many decades. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a wetland area as described above, look carefully and deliberately, and you just might be rewarded with a glimpse of this lovely plant.

If you think that you have located an individual or population of Ragged Fringed Orchid in Polk County, please contact Pam Torlina at Conserving Carolina by email at pam@conservingcarolina.org, and if you can provide a photo, that would be particularly helpful.

Visit Conserving Carolina’s website, conservingcarolina.org/polk-most-wanted, for more information about “Polk County’s Most Wanted” and to download and print a “Pocket Guide” with all of the “Most Wanted” plants, animals, and habitats that you can be on the lookout for! The document can be downloaded from Conserving Carolina’s website at conservingcarolina.org/polk-county-inventory.

Conserving Carolina, your local land trust, is dedicated to protecting land and water, promoting good stewardship, and creating opportunities for people to enjoy nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.

Submitted by Pam Torlina / Written by David Campbell