Botany Partnership with North American Orchid Conservation Center

To address growing concern amongst the scientific community regarding status of our native orchids, the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) recently partnered with the Monongahela National Forest to collect samples of Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids.

Showy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is an orchid whose range extends throughout eastern North America.  Although it has an extensive range, it is critically imperiled in many states, including West Virginia. On the Monongahela National Forest, it is only found in three locations, and the populations in these locations are small (<50 plants).

The pink and white petals of a Showy Lady Fingers

Showy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium reginae) in bloom; USDA Forest Service photo.

By working with the Monongahela, the NAOCC is collecting leaf, root, and seed capsule samples of Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids at the most vigorous population on the Forest.  NAOCC will use these samples to develop protocols for propagation, determine the mycorrhizal fungal associate(s) necessary for orchid seed germination, and other research needs that will assist in the survivability of Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids.

An immature seed capsule with withered Showy Lady Finger flower.

Seed capsule that will be collected when mature; USDA Forest Service photo.

Another partner that will be receiving seed capsules for conservation measures is Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden whose Conservation, Plant Breeding, and Collections department will be working towards germinating Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids.  If germination is successful, the orchids will be planted at their gardens for the public to enjoy viewing and learning about this rare native orchid. Both partners applied for and received permits to collect samples of these rare orchids on the National Forest; they are professionally trained to do so. 

The USDA Forest Service appreciates partners that work so diligently to conserve the beautiful Showy Lady’s Slipper orchid. Our hope is that this effort allows future generations a chance to see this rare plant.  

One of the USDA Forest Service’s important activities is the conservation and management of rare plants. The rare plants program includes plants listed as threatened, endangered, or proposed under the Endangered Species Act as well as Regional Forester Sensitive Species—plants designated by the Regional Forester as species in need of additional conservation measures. Botanists inventory and monitor rare plants and their habitats. They prepare conservation assessments, conservation strategies and biological assessments to address these species. Additionally, botanists on the National Forests prepare management prescriptions to conserve, recover, and protect these rare plants.

Partners are invaluable in the delivery of the botany program on the national forests. The Forest Service is committed to working with others to conserve and manage our forest and grassland resources.

Strategic Goal: Sustain our Nation’s Forests & Grasslands