CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Platanthera praeclara

J. Locklear

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Platanthera praeclara

Common Names: 
Western prairie fringed orchid, Western white-fringed orchid
(Sheviak & Bowles) Cronquist
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


Profile Links
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Platanthera praeclaraenlarge
Photographer: J. Locklear
Image Owner: Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Platanthera praeclaraenlarge
Photographer: J. Locklear
Image Owner: Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Platanthera praeclara is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Jim Locklear contributed to this Plant Profile.

Platanthera praeclara

The fate of the western prairie fringed orchid is tied to that of the tallgrass prairie. This elegant wildflower, with its clusters of showy white flowers, was once found in grassy swales and meadows from Manitoba south into Oklahoma. Now, with the tallgrass prairie reduced to less than two-percent of its formerly vast range, this beautiful and unique grassland orchid is threatened with extinction.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
North Dakota
State Range of  Platanthera praeclara
  Occurs in mesic upland tallgrass prairie in the southern part of its range, often in swales, and wet-mesic tallgrass prairie and sedge meadows in the northern part of its range. Also known from prairies and swales in sand dune complexes that are fed by shallow underground water.

  Roughly reflects the historic distribution of the tallgrass prairie in North America, from the Red River Valley of Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota, extending southeastward to Iowa and Missouri and westward to northeastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, central Nebraska and eastern South Dakota.

Number Left
  175 known occurrences (USFWS 1996). Largest populations, some with as many as 1,000+ individuals, are found in the northern part of its range in MN and ND. Most populations in KS, MO and OK have fewer than 50 individuals.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Canada (Manitoba) N1 E 11/1/2001  
  Iowa S1 E 2/29/1988  
  Kansas S1 6/24/1989  
  Manitoba S1 5/23/1991  
  Minnesota S1  
  Missouri S1 E 1/16/1990  
  Nebraska S1 STH 11/3/1989  
  North Dakota S2 N 4/20/1988  
  Oklahoma S1 3/24/1989  
  South Dakota SH 1/21/1986  
  Wyoming SRF D?5 6/22/1992  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Pollinated by hawkmoths of the Family Sphingidae (Sheviak and Bowles 1986).
Closely related to the eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea), which generally occurs east of the Mississippi River and has somewhat smaller flowers (Sheviak and Bowles 1986).

  Conversion of pasture and hayfield habitat to cropland.
Habitat fragmentation.
Fire suppression and woody plant encroachment.
Invasion by noxious weeds.
Herbicides and insecticides.
Hydrologic changes.
Intensive cattle grazing and trampling.
Collecting of plants from the wild.

Current Research Summary
  Research on propagation, pollination, population genetics, and habitats requirements has been performed on this species. (Norby 1997; Bjugstad-Porter 1993; From and Read 1998; Pleasants 1993, 1995a, 1995b)

Current Management Summary
  Management Guidelines for the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid have been developed at the Cheyenne National Grassland, Dakota Prairie Grasslands. (Cheyenne Ranger District 1999)

Research Management Needs
  Role of disturbance in maintaining population vigor.
Reintroduction studies.
Protect and manage existing populations.
Monitor populations.

Ex Situ Needs
  Propagation studies.
Long term germplasm storage studies.
Establish seed bank.


Books (Single Authors)

2000. Missouri Plants of Conservation Concern. Jefferson City, MO: Conservation Commission of Missouri--Missouri Department of Conservation.

Coffin, B.; Pfannmuller, L. 1988. Minnesota's endangered flora and fauna. Minneapolis: Univ. Minnesota Press. 473p.

Smith, Welby R. 1993. Orchids of Minnesota. Minn. Dept. of Natural Resources. 137p.

Books (Sections)

Weller, S.G. 1994. The relationship of rarity to plant reproductive biology. In: Bowles, M.L.; Whelan, C., editors. Recovery and Restoration of Endangered Species. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. p 90-117.

Conference Proceedings

Pleasants, J.M. The effects of spring burns on the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara). Proceedings of the 14th North American Prairie Conference; Kansas State University Press, Manhattan, KS. In: Hart, B.C., editor. 1995. p 67-73.

Electronic Sources

USFWS. (1995). North Dakota's federally listed endangered, threatened, and candidate species 1995. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bismarck, ND. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/others/nddanger/nddanger.htm. Accessed: 2002.

USGS. (2002). Status of Listed Species and Recovery Plan Development. [Web site] USGS: Norther Prairie Wildlife Research Center. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/others/recoprog/plant.htm. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Balis-Larsen, M.; Dauphine, C.; Jewell, S. 1999. Canada and U.S. Save Shared Species at Risk. Endangered Species Bulletin. 24, 2: 22-23.

Bowles, M.L. 1983. The Tallgrass Prairie Orchids Platanthera leucophaea (Nutt.) Lind. and Cypripedium candidum Muhl. ex Wild.: Some Aspects of Their Status, Biology, and Ecology, and Implications Toward Management. Natural Areas Journal. 3, 4: 14-37.

Bray, T.E.; Wilson, B.L. 1992. Status of Platanthera praeclara Sheviak & Bowles (Western Prairie Fringed Orchid) in the Platte River Valley in Nebraska from Hamilton to Garden Counties. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences. 29: 57-61.

Catling, P.M.; Brownell, V.R. 1987. New and significant vascular plant records for Manitoba. Canadian Field Naturalist. 101, 3: 437-439.

Curtis, J.T. 1939. The relation of specificity of orchid mycorrhizal fungi to the problem of symbiosis. American Journal of Botany. 26: 390-399.

Duxbury, A.J. 1988. The western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara Sheviak and Bowles) in the Great Plains, with particular reference to North Dakota. Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science. 42: 4.

Elliman, T.; Francis, P.; Jennings, W.; Reeves, T.; Reeves, L.; Shelly, J.S.; Todsen, T. 1996. The Current Status of the Orchids of the Rockly Mountains. North American Native Orchid Journal. 2, 1: 85-115.

From, M.M.; Read, P. 1998. Platanthera praeclara strategies for conservation and propagation. North American Native Orchid Journal. 4, 4: 299-332.

Gremaud, G. 1995. The Treasure Hunters. Missouri Conservationist. 56: 33-37.

Johnson, K.L. 1981. Rare orchids III: the rare bog orchids (Genus Platanthera) of Manitoba. Bulletin of the Manitoba Naturalists' Society. 4, 8: 7.

Johnson, K.L. 1986. Yet more about orchids!!! The western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara). Bulletin of the Manitoba Naturalists' Society. 11, 10: 12.

Norby, Monica Manton. 1997. Horticulturists hoping to increase native orchid's numbers. Research Nebraska. 8, 2: 6-13.

Pleasants, J.M.; Moe, S. 1993. Floral Display Size and Pollination of the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Platanthera praeclara (Orchidaceae). Lindleyana. 8, 1: 32.

Sheviak, C.J.; Bowles, M.L. 1986. The prairie fringed orchids: a pollinator-isolated species pair. Rhodora. 88: 267-290.

Sieg, C.H. 1997. The mysteries of a prairie orchid. Endangered Species Bulletin. 22, 4: 12-13.

Sieg, C.H.; King, R.M. 1995. Influence of Environmental Factors and Preliminary Demographic Analyses of a Threatened Orchid, Platanthera praeclara. American Midland Naturalist. 134, 2: 307-323.

USFWS. 1988. Protection Recommended for Three Plants and One Insect. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. XIII, 11-12: 4-5.

USFWS. 1989. Determination of threatened status for eastern and western prairie fringed orchids. Federal Register. 54, 187: 39857-39862.

USFWS. 2002. For lack of a Moth, the Orchid is Lost. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Region 6: On-line Feature Series. 2, 4: 2.

Wiesner, M.B. 1995. Natives at Risk: Prairie fringed orchids. American Horticulturist. 74: 11.

Zelmer, C.D.; Currah, R.S. 1995. Ceratorhiza pernacatena and Epulorhiza calendulina spp nov: Mycorrhizal fungi of terrestrial orchids. Canadian Journal of Botany. 73, 12: 1981-1985.


1990. Western prairie fringed orchid: a threatened species. Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Plant Health Division. p.1.

1999. Management Guidelines for the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid on the Sheyenne National Grassland, Dakota Prairie Grasslands. Lisbon, ND: Sheyenne Ranger District.

Armstrong, D.; Fritz, M.; Miller, P.; Byers, O. 1997. Population and Habitat Viability Assessment Workshop for the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara) Final Report. Apple Valley, MN: Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

Bender, J. Element Stewardship Abstract for Platanthera leucophaea and Platanthera praeclara. Minneapolis, MN: The Nature Conservancy.

Bowles, M.L.; Duxbury, A. 1986. Report on the status of Platanthera praeclara Sheviak and Bowles in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Denver, Colorado: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. p.42. Unpublished report.

Collicutt, D.R. 1993. Status report on the western prairie white fringed orchid, Platanthera praeclara, in Canada. Ottawa: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. p.39.

Fritz, M. 1993. Nebraska's Threatened and Endangered Species: Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. p.6.

Menges, E.S.; Quintana Ascencio, P.F.. 1997. Preliminary Analysis of Plant Dormancy in Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. Informal Report to Nancy P. Sather, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. p.15. Informal Report.

Pleasants, J.M.; Klier, K. 1995. Genetic Variation Within and Among Populations of the eastern and western prairie fringed orchids, Platanthera leucophaea & P. praeclara. Report to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. p.28.

Sather, N. 1991. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid: a threatened midwestern prairie plant. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. p.14.

Sather, Nancy.; Menges, Eric S.; Quintana Ascencio, Pedro F. 1997. Platanthera praeclara in Minnesota: summary of status and monitoring results for 1996. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.

Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife. 1994. Western prairie fringed orchid: Platanthera praeclara. Pierre, S.D.: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. p.1.

Thurman, C.M.; Hickey, E.E. 1989. A Missouri survey of six species of federal concern: Auriculate False Foxglove, Tomanthera auriculata; Mead's Milkweed, Asclepias meadii; Geocarpon, Geocarpon minimum; Missouri Bladder-pod, Lesquerella filiformis; Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Platanthera praeclara; and Decurrent False Aster, Boltonia decurrens. Missouri Dept. of Conservation.

USFWS. 1996. Platanthera praeclara (western prairie fringed orchid) recovery plan. Ft. Snelling, Minnesota: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. p.vi + 101.

Watson, L.E. 1989. Status survey of Platanthera praeclara, western white fringed prairie orchid, in Oklahoma. Norman: Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory. p.6.

Watson, William C. 1993. Inventory of northern Iowa for Platanthera leucophaea (Nuttall) Lindley and Platanthera praeclara sheviak and Bowles: final report, 1992. Des Moines, Iowa: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.


Bjugstad-Porter, Rochelle. 1993. The Western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara): It's response to burning and associated mycorrhizal fungi. [M.S. Thesis]: University of Wyoming. Laramie, WY. 116p.

Cuthrell, David Lee. 1994. Insects associated with the prairie fringed orchids, Platanthera praeclara Sheviak & Bowles and P. leucophaea (Nuttall) Lindley. [M.S. Thesis]: North Dakota State University. 76p.

Wolken, Paige M. 1995. Habitat and life history of the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara). University of Wyoming. 93p.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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