Friday, October 8, 2010

Endangered Oklahoma orchid

The Oklahoma grass pink orchid (Calopogon oklahomensis) was discovered by Douglas H. Goldman in 1995.  It is a terrestrial orchid native to several states in the central United States, growing in prairies, savannas, woodlands, the fringes of bogs and mowed meadows.  The actual locations where these orchids can be found are patchy.

Distribution map for Calopogon oklahomensis

Recently this orchid has been listed as endangered in some states and may be protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) soon, based on the results of studies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  As you can see on the map, the actual range is fairly small and some of the locations where it grows wild are being transitioned to other land uses.

Calopogon oklahomensis pink
Calopogon oklahomensis growing in northwestern Arkansas, May 2009.
(Photo courtesy Steve Marak)

 For a while this orchid was thought to be another species (Calopogon tuberosus), but it flowers at a different time of year and has some distinctive differences when closely examined.  The flowers of this orchid are quite distinct, with color from light pink to darker purple with delicate yellow hairs.

My hope is that someone will make an effort to collect and propagate some of this species before it is listed as protected by the US government.  If it can be cultivated then it could be re-released into protected and suitable habitats if the wild numbers decrease further.

There are some really good pictures of this orchid elsewhere on the internet.  Check on flickr.

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