Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Nature Conservancy pollinator bandana 2015

It's probably time to update on how orchids have been faring here in the Midwest. Despite continued development resulting in habitat loss, there are some balancing factors to celebrate: increasing numbers of young people are taking up the conservation challenge, bringing new energy to long-stewarded sites in Cook County, IL and other areas. Healthy spring rains and decent winter snowpack have nourished wet soils, creating decent conditions for moisture-loving native orchids. Volunteers are becoming new stakeholders and advocates within forest preserve systems, and getting excited about new orchid discoveries.

The long-term, highly-respected rare plant monitoring program out of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Plants of Concern, is entering its 15th year. (I've been with it for the last 14) Hopefully we'll have an update soon on how our native orchids are doing overall, and how different management approaches benefit them (or not).

In the meantime, if you find an orchid in the wild, leave it be. Inform the stakeholder (forest preserve staff, private property owner, managing agency). Advocate for them - they're canaries in the mine for habitat change and when they start to decline, be sure that something is amiss with surface water or other important conditions that will impact us too down the road!