First placed on the candidate list: 1975
Years waiting for protection: 29
Range: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina
Habitat: mountain wetlands

The Appalachian Mountains are known for their astounding diversity of flowering plants. Among these is the white fringeless orchid, a two-foot-tall herb that grows in wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Alabama's coastal plain. The orchid was listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Although the population has continued to decline to only 53 locations, the white fringeless orchid is still waiting for endangered species protection

The white fringeless orchid grows in wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains and coastal plain of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Topped with a loose cluster of pale, tiny flowers, it reproduces through seeds and relies on sufficiently large populations to maintain itself. Only one out of every one hundred plants produces seeds each year and many of the populations support far fewer than one hundred individuals. Thus, of the ninety populations of this flower that have been documented, only 53 survive.

Coupled with this ever-increasing mortality and low reproductive rate, the orchid is threatened by road and residential construction, commercial collecting, herbicides, competition from non-native plants and predation from the white-tailed deer, who exist in unnaturally high densities.

graphic Andrew Rodman ©2002
May 3, 2004
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