Nutrient assimilation and management practice in communities of Cypripedium candidum in the Chicago Region
Orchids belong to one of the most abundant families on earth and tend to be very specific in their habitats. Many exotic species are commercially grown in greenhouses, but our local terrestrial species are not so easily domesticated. As a result, their preservation is challenging, and conventional reintroduction and restoration techniques are intractable for many species. We do know that orchids are very reliant upon their fungal partners and that these partners are, in turn, reliant upon appropriate soil conditions. This project fits into a larger project that seeks to synthesize management practices, the soil fungal community, and population fitness for Cypripedium candidum (the white lady's slipper orchid) by investigating the effects of management practice, nutrient availability, and nutrient uptake for C. candidum across six local nature preserves. At the six preserves there are eight plots where long term monitoring of the C. candidum populations varies between ten and twelve years, so we have a great opportunity to use long term data regarding site management. Cypripedium candidum grows in prairie fens and bogs and is a very long lived plant.
The Nature Preserves which they inhabit are scattered up to 80 miles from the Chicago Botanic Garden, and across a gradient from urban to rural. We will measure photosynthetic capability using a portable photosynthesis system in the field, and also collect leaf tissue and soil samples. We will subsequently analyze our leaf and soil samples for nutrient concentration using the in house spectrometer. The data collected will be added to the census and demographic data already collected through the Chicago Botanic Garden's Plants of Concern Program, and will be spatially analyzed using ARCMAP, a GIS based software package.