Rare hybrid orchid discovered on Eastern Shore

Apr 25, 2011 by admin

Rare hybrid orchid discovered on Eastern Shore

The Nature Conservancy reports that an extremely rare hybrid orchid, Platanthera x canbyi, was found at Nassawango Creek Preserve in Worcester County by a botanist hired by the conservancy for a biological survey. Less than a dozen of these plants have been seen in the state in the last 70 years, though they are native to Maryland, the group says.

The orchid is a combination of the also-rare white-fringed orchid and the crested yellow orchid. And the conservancy found three of the plants in bloom last week in the preserve.

Nassawango is owned by the conservancy and is the state’s largest private preserve at 10,000 acres. Combined with state land, there is a 30-square mile conservation area that is home to 90 rare and endangered plants and animals, the conservancy said.

The conservancy says that the area had undergone a prescribed burn to clear out overgrowth and restore soil. That gives native plants a chance to come back. The orchid is indication the fire is helping on that front.

When the botanist, Ron Wilson, discovered the plant, he called it “something very special,” according to the conservancy. He then called a biologist at the state Department of Natural Resources, who came to see it. Wes Knapp said he’d never seen one before and was excited to be one of the few people in the state to get a look.

Other rare plants, including four species of sedges were found.

The conservancy is taking other steps to restore the area. It’s helping to replace thousands of acres of loblolly pines with mixed native hardwoods. A 30-acre plot that was also burned has been replanted with Atlantic white cedar seedlings provided by the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Those evergreens have been in decline because of habitat loss.

The preserve is open to the public, but the conservancy asks that vistors stay on the trails. And please don’t touch the orchids if you come upon them.