Plants and Animals

Platanthera leucophaea Prairie white-fringed orchid

species photo
Susan R. Crispin
species photo
MNFI Staff
species photo
Martin Bowles
species photo
Susan R. Crispin
species photo
Martin Bowles

Key Characteristics

Stout orchid (up to 1 m) of wet prairies and bogs; stem leafy, with larger lanceolate leaves at base; flowers creamy-white and 3-parted with a prominently fringed lower lip, clustered on a terminal stalk.

Status and Rank

US Status: LT - Listed Threatened
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G2G3 - Rank is uncertain, ranging from imperiled to vulnerable
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Barry 1 2016
Bay 4 2017
Calhoun 1 1887
Cass 1 2009
Cheboygan 1 1924
Clinton 1 1933
Eaton 1 1887
Genesee 1 1884
Gratiot 1 1895
Huron 2 2018
Livingston 1 1985
Monroe 3 2016
Oakland 1 1850
Saginaw 2 2020
St. Clair 2 2006
St. Joseph 1 2017
Tuscola 4 2017
Washtenaw 2 2016
Wayne 1 2016

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Eastern prairie fringed orchid is found in moist alkaline and lacustrine soils. It is primarily found in moist prairie remnants, particularly those associated with lakeplains, but it can also occur in open or semi-open bogs and peaty lakeshores. Though rare, this orchid can readily colonize highly disturbed sites like ditches, unmowed old fields, and even the edges of golf courses as long as competition is not overly intense and proper soil fungi are present.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Bluejoint grass, cordgrass, rush, sedges, twig-rush, shrubby cinquefoil, swamp milkweed, big bluestem, Indian grass, Sullivant's milkweed, purple milkweed, swamp thistle, eastern prairie fringed orchid, marsh blazing star, whorled loosestrife, grass-of-Parnassus, smooth hedge nettle, swamp rose, Missouri ironweed, joe-pye weed, common bone set, spike-rush, little blue stem, prairie slough grass, flax, dogwoods, and hardstem bulrush. In bogs, it may also be associated with Sphagnum moss, sedges, leatherleaf, bog rosemary, cotton grass, swamp-laurel, three-leaved false Solomon's seal, Labrador tea, black spruce, chokecherry, tamarack, and bog birch.

Management Recommendations

This species requires the maintenance of natural hydrological cycles and open habitat. Activities such as shrub removal are likely to benefit the species, but other management such as prescribed fire is not well understood. Caution and proper monitoring should be employed if using prescribed fire in occupied habitat. Spring fires should be conducted prior to emergence (mid-April). Poaching is also a threat.

Survey Methods

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgement of the investigator.

  • Meander search

    • Survey Period: From third week of June to third week of July


Survey References

  • Elzinga, C.L., D.W. Salzer, and J.W. Willoughby. 1998. Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, Denver. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1. 477pp.
  • Goff, G.F., G.A. Dawson, and J.J. Rochow. 1982. Site examination for Threatened and Endangered plant species. Environmental Management 6(4): 307-316
  • Nelson, J.R. 1984. Rare Plant Field Survey Guidelines. In: J.P. Smith and R. York. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 3rd Ed. California Native Plant Society, Berkeley. 174pp.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1986. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques For Impact Assessment. Natural Areas Journal 5(3):18-30.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1987. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques for Impact Assessment. In: Conservation and management of rare and endangered plants. Ed. T.S. Elias. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 8pp.

Technical References

  • Braun, E. L. 1967. The Monocotyledoneae of Ohio. Cat-tails to Orchids. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 464pp.
  • Case, F.W., Jr. 1987. Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region. Revised ed. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bull. 48. 251pp.
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 26: Magnoliaphyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York. 723pp.
  • Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second edition. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 910pp.
  • Gray, A. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany; eighth ed. Van Nostrand Reinghold, New York. 1632pp.
  • Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the vascular plants of Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 937pp.
  • Homoya, M.A. 1993. Orchids of Indiana. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. 276pp.
  • Luer, C.A. 1975. The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada, Excluding Florida. Native Orchids U.S. & Canada. Barrons Educational Series, Hauppauge.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. 1986. Guide to the Vascular Flora of Illinois. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 507pp.
  • Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region, 4th ed. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis. 921pp.
  • Voss, E. G. 1972. Michigan Flora. Part I. Gymnosperms and Monocots. Bulletin of the Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. 488pp.
  • Whiting, R.E. and P.M. Catling. 1986. Orchids of Ontario. The CanaColl Foundation, Ottawa. 169pp.