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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

A Quest for State Endangered/Federally Threatened Orchid Species

by Tina Myers 12. July 2013 05:59

My co-worker and fellow ecologist, Heather Patti, and I participated in a unique opportunity this past week when we assisted the WI Department of Natural Resources in a survey of the State Endangered/Federally Threatened Prairie White Fringed Orchid (Platanthera leucophaea).  This extremely rare plant is primarily found in moist, undisturbed, deep-soiled and/or calcareous prairies and is less commonly seen in tamarack fens.  Since these ecosystems are also quite rare, the survival of this beautiful wildflower is dependent upon the preservation and management of the few remaining areas that harbor them.  These unique ecosystems are under constant threat of invasive species such as glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) which can easily overtake a prairie in the absence of fire.  The WDNR’s Bureau of Endangered Resources, which was renamed the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation on July 1, tracks rare species and manages State Natural Areas to preserve the best remnants of our original landscapes and they depend on many volunteers to help them.

With approximately a dozen other volunteers, Heather and I meandered throughout a prairie in southeast Wisconsin in search of this rare beauty.  It was much like looking for a needle in a haystack!  By the end of the day, only a small number of orchids were found and their locations GPS’d.  I was thrilled to be able to personally find one lonely orchid during the last 10 minutes of a long day searching.  In addition to the rare orchid find, we also caught a glimpse of the State-Threatened Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), and several other rare plants such as smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima), marsh blazing star (Liatris spicata), and ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis), among others.


 White Fringed Orchid
Credit: Tina Myers, R.A. Smith National



Seasonal Wetlands Provide Critical Habitat for Wildlife

by Heather Patti 24. April 2013 07:25

Scattered across the Upper Midwest are thousands of small seasonally wet areas that may only be saturated or hold water from late fall to late spring or early summer. Seasonal wetlands (also known as “vernal ponds”) result from winter snowmelt and spring rains, and typically occur in depressional areas in woods and open fields. By mid-summer, most seasonal wetlands have dried out or are just barely moist. Some are almost indiscernible across the landscape.

Although many of these seasonal wetlands may be less than an acre or even a half-acre in size, they provide an important food source for migratory birds, waterfowl, breeding and feeding areas for amphibians and reptiles, and critical winter food supplies for turkey, deer and other birds and mammals.

There are many different types of seasonal wetlands including seasonally flooded basins, farmed depressions, hardwood swamps, springs and seeps, and lake plain prairies. If you are lucky enough to own any of these seasonal wetlands, you will notice they are used by a wide variety of wildlife.  Seasonal wetlands are gaining recognition as important habitats because of their unique role in the landscape, their valuable wetland function, and the critical habitat they provide for wildlife.

If you have any questions about seasonal wetlands, wetland delineation or the current wetland permitting process, the ecologists at R.A. Smith National can provide the assistance you need.  Please contact Heather Patti at (262) 317-3361 or Tina Myers at (262) 317-3389.

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