September Greetings from NAOCC

Once again - we had intended for this update to be an early summer newsletter - but in the blink of an eye, the fall equinox is just around the corner! Enjoy the last days of summer!
Orchids in Southwest Ecosystems

NAOCC has launched an exciting new collaborative project with the Desert Botanical Garden to link native orchid ecology and conservation with existing efforts to restore or enhance water resources through watershed management in Southwest ecosystems.

Funding for the initiative is a generous grant from the Biophilia Foundation. The plan is to characterize and compare the environmental conditions of habitats where native orchids occur with areas managed with watershed-scale installations of rock detention structures to retain water on the landscape longer - a traditional Indigenous practice in the region. A goal is to increase the water storage capacity of the landscape, reverse watershed degradation, and positively impact multiple biophysical systems, including carbon sequestration.
Since most of the native orchids in the Southwest are found in mesic to wet habitats, such water management should increase the availability of appropriate habitats for native orchids by improving hydrologic conditions that support both the orchids and their mycorrhizal fungi.
Above right: A beautiful field work site in the "sky islands" of Arizona - isolated mountain ranges rising from the surrounding desert
Photo © Melissa McCormick
Above Right: An example of restoration using rock detention structures to retain water in the landscape
Photos © Andrew Salywon
Spiranthes delitescens (Canelo Hills ladies' tresses). The few known populations occur in cienegas characterized by gentle gradients with slow flowing water, and small drainage areas with finely grained, organic soils
Photo © Melissa McCormick
Over the next two years, the research will focus on quantifying the distribution and abundance of orchid mycorrhizal fungi associated with soils in native orchid habitats and managed areas to determine if the newly created habitats could support the fungi. Seed germination experiments will be conducted in the field and laboratory.

Andrew Salywon and Steve Blackwell with the Desert Botanical Garden will lead an effort to propagate the native orchids for restoration in the newly created habitats. The initial focus will be propagation of the Canelo Hills ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes delitescens), a species endemic to Arizona, which is currently found at only two of the five sites where it historically occurred.
Field work associated with the two-year project began during a recent field trip in Arizona. Dennis Whigham and Melissa McCormick joined Andrew, Steve, and a very interested group of landowners and conservationists to visit sites in the Sky Islands region of southern Arizona.

The team collected samples of orchid roots to isolate, identify, and grow the orchid mycorrhizal fungi for eventual reintroduction and monitoring in natural and managed habitats.
Since environmental data rarely exist for native orchid habitats, microloggers were installed to monitor soil moisture and temperature continuously. An exciting element of the recent trip was the successful use of trained dogs to locate Spiranthes delitescens (see the article below about dogs as partners in orchid conservation).

Watch for updates about this project in future newsletters.

Dennis Whigham, Andrew Salywon, & Melissa McCormick
Photo © Andrew Salywon
NAOCC’s New Collaborators in Orchid Conservation Work… Dogs!
Dogs assisting with orchid conservation? Yes, it is a “real thing,” and NAOCC has had the benefit of dogs’ help on two projects involving endangered orchids recently. Orchids can be hard to find, often inconspicuous unless flowering, with populations and individuals sometimes widely dispersed. Dogs are known to have a powerful sense of smell, so why not test their ability to find elusive orchids through scenting?
Above:Trevor Michaels, USDA-APHIS, training a dog to sniff out endangered Isotria medeoloides plants
Video © Hope Brooks
Cherry Keller with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working with NAOCC's Dennis Whigham and Melissa McCormick on a recovery plan for Isotria medeoloides (small whorled pogonia), a species federally-listed as threatened. Dennis and Melissa have been studying Isotria for many years at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), and were enthusiastic when Cherry explored the idea of using dogs to locate plants in the field. They provided dried Isotria leaves collected by NAOCC collaborators in New Hampshire and Georgia. Trevor Michaels, with USDA-APHIS, used the material to train the dogs.
Initial tests at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia were successful, thanks to the assistance of long-term NAOCC collaborators Jason Applegate and Brian Josey. Now conservationists in West Virginia, New Jersey, and beyond are interested in using dogs to find this elusive orchid. The team plans further testing with roots to see if dogs can sniff out plants entirely underground. While that may not seem like a big deal, if successful, it will make it possible to detect Isotria plants that are alive but dormant – which this species can do for over a decade.
After the initial experiences with dogs assisting the hunt for Isotria plants in the Mid-Atlantic region, Melissa and Dennis then traveled to Arizona to work on a new landscape-scale orchid restoration project with Andrew Salywon of the Desert Botanical Garden (see "Orchids in Southwest Ecosystems" article, above). This new project, funded by the Biophilia Foundation, will link landscape management (i.e., keeping water on the landscape in the dry southwest) with biodiversity conservation (orchids and orchid mycorrhizal fungi).
One species included in the project is Spiranthes delitescens, a plant so rare it is endemic to only five locations in Arizona - and nowhere else in the world!

Andrew enlisted Lauralea Oliver to help locate the plants in wetland areas, since they are challenging to find (unless in bloom) because of their small size and the density of taller plants all around them. Lauralea owns k9inSCENTive, LLC, specializing in training dogs to find all sorts of things.

Like the dogs trained to detect Isotria in Virginia, Lauralea’s two dogs (see profiles of Circe and Muon, below) found small vegetative plants and flowering Spiranthes at two of the five sites. The fact that the dogs did not find orchids at the remaining three sites (where the species historically grew but has not been seen for decades) underscores the urgent need for restoration.

These two independent examples in very different habitats in the East and the West illustrate the power of using our canine friends to advance orchid conservation. Hopefully, this new human-canine collaboration will help to turn the tide for the future of threatened and endangered orchids.
Above: Lauralea Oliver, k9inSCENTive, LLC, orients Muon to help find endangered Arizona orchids
Video © Melissa McCormick
Meet the orchid-sniffing dogs from k9inSCENTive, LLC!

SCENTdog Circe, a black Labrador, has worked full-time at California wind farms assisting with environmental impact studies by locating injured birds and bats. She also works with the endemic San Joaquin kit fox, locating their scats for population and ecology studies. Circe’s hobbies include fetching, running, leaping, barking and swimming.
SCENTdog Muon, a Belgian shepherd cross, is the newest and youngest member of the SCENTdog Team named after the recently discovered muon particle, since she is a petite 26lbs. A quick study, Muon has already racked up respectable field time working at California wind farms for bird and bat fatality monitoring surveys. Muon’s hobbies include tugging, running and jumping.

Photos of Circe & Muon © Lauralea Oliver, k9inSCENTive, LLC
NAOCC in London During Chelsea Flower Show & Queen's Platinum Jubilee
Note: As this newsletter was in production, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II was announced. We extend our sincere condolences. May she rest in peace.
While on an outreach & fundraising mission to London this spring, NAOCC had an opportunity to spread the word about orchid conservation at the Royal Horticultural Society’s 2022 Chelsea Flower Show in London.

A friend of NAOCC, John Parke Wright IV of Naples, Florida, worked with Bob Fuchs, president of the American Orchid Society and owner of of R.F. Orchids, to have a new orchid variety developed to present to Queen Elizabeth II for her Platinum Jubilee. The result was a stunning Vanda hybrid that fit the bill. The Queen saw the exhibit during her visit to Chelsea, and the orchids were later presented to her at Windsor Castle.
Vanda Platinum Jubilee at the
Chelsea Flower Show 2022
Photo © Julianne McGuinness
The Platinum Jubilee Orchid is a new hybrid cross: Vanda Janet McDonald x V. coerulea  ‘Mike’ AM/AOS. The prized species Vanda coerulea is in both sides of its lineage.

Native to the oak and pine forests of northeast India and southern Yunnan, China, as well as Myanmar and western Thailand, the ephiphytic V. coerulea is vulnerable in much of its range, threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. The species is highly valued for its striking, long-lasting bluish-purple flowers and medicinal properties. Collection and trade are restricted; governments and breeders work to reduce the pressure on wild-collecting through incentivized artificial propagation.
Like its native species parent stock, the hybrid Platinum Jubilee Orchid requires hot, humid growing conditions with cool nights, good air circulation and bright light - so it can be challenging to grow indoors in temperate climates without a greenhouse. Luckily for fans up to the challenge, R.F. Orchids now has seedlings available.
Left: A close-up of the intricate purple and white blooms of the Platinum Jubilee Orchid.
Photo © Lawrence Zettler
NAOCC's Julianne McGuinness and Dr. Larry Zettler visit the Platinum Jubilee Orchid display at the Corinthia Hotel, London
Photo © Julianne McGuinness
NAOCC's Larry Zettler and Julianne McGuinness assisted with the Chelsea exhibit, and promoted the urgency of worldwide native orchid conservation to thousands of Chelsea attendees.
Dr. Larry Zettler, John Parke Wright IV, & Julianne McGuinness
at the Chelsea Flower Show exhibit
Photo © Lawrence Zettler
While in London, Larry, Julianne, and a crew from the orchid staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, also enjoyed a field trip to see native orchids in bloom at Box Hill in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As intriguing it was to explore the native orchids of England, we wished at times we had a handy resource like NAOCC's Go Orchids!
Above Left: A common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) at Box Hill; Above Right: At Box Hill, Surrey Hills
Photos © Julianne McGuinness
Larry and Elizabeth Rellinger-Zettler also also traveled north where they enjoyed orchid-spotting near Kidderminster with Phil Seaton.

Near Right: Dactylorhiza praetermissa (southern marsh orchid); Far Right: Ophrys apifera (bee orchid), in Kidderminster, Worcestershire,. England
Photos © Elizabeth Rellinger-Zettler
Other NAOCC Updates at a Glance:

It's been a busy summer for NAOCC with travel in different directions, our Collections Project and other fieldwork. Here are a few highlights and updates:
Palau Orchid Conservation Initiative
We continue to study the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi from the endemic and widespread orchids of Palau.

The original collaboration included Palau, NAOCC, the US Forest Service, & Illinois College. Recently, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance also joined the team.
The March 2022 issue of The Orchid Review (published by the Royal Horticultural Society) featured an article on the Palau project.

A return trip to the archipelago is planned for 2023.

Updates to Go Orchids Website
If you have not checked out NAOCC's Go Orchids website in a while, now may be a good time. We have recently updated several species accounts to reflect some significant taxonomic changes.
For example, based on new phylogenetic analyses, species of Basiphyllaea and Hexalectris have been reclassified under the genus Bletia (Sosa and Chase, 2016).
Photo © Ronald A. Coleman
New Offerings from NAOCC in Brief
Field Guide to the Native Orchids of the U.S. and Canada

We are in the final stages of editing and compiling the manuscript for this new field guide, which will feature Hal Horwitz' wonderful photographs and be a companion to the Go Orchids website. Cornell University Press, under the Comstock Publishing imprint, will publish the guide. We will keep you posted on an expected publication date!
Orchid-gami Boxed Set Out Soon (in Time for the Holidays)!
Production by Tuttle Publishing is now complete on this new boxed set of 20 orchid-gami models, accompanied by a 50-page booklet with information about the models and orchid ecology! Proceeds will support NAOCC's orchid conservation research and educational programs.

While shipping delays have once again pushed out the expected widespread availability of the product, it is available now via Signals, and for pre-order via Amazon. Look for it in most local booksellers, botanical garden and museum gift shops by November 8, 2022 - just in time for the holiday gifting season!
The Orchid Pollinator Project: We Want Your Photos!
As noted in NAOCC's 2021 Summer Newsletter, we have a long-term collaborative project in progress to document orchid-pollinator relationships across the US and Canada.

Surprisingly, pollinators for over half the orchids native to the U.S. and Canada are unknown, and for many of those we do know about, we only have data from a few locations.

Your photos can help paint a more complete picture, and help conserve endangered and threatened orchids across North America.
Right: A Swallowtail butterfly pollinating a Platanthera blephariglottis; Below Left: A moth pollinating a Platanthera grandiflora.
Photos © Melissa McCormick
We’re especially interested in photos of insects with pollen packets (“pollinia”) attached to their bodies - but we’ll take any pollinator photos on naturally-occurring native orchids from the U.S. and Canada. (We are also interested in photos from Mexico, if they include orchid species also found in the U.S.)

Along with photos, we want to know the orchid species, location, and date the photo was taken (the latter two items can be approximate), along with the approximate number of orchids in bloom at the site. Locations will remain confidential, but this information helps us to understand the impact of surrounding land use. We hope to determine how orchid pollinators differ among sites and to identify previously-unknown orchid pollinators.
Photos will be used for research only. We will not publish any photos without your express permission. Some information obtained from your photo (pollinator/orchid ID, generalized location) may contribute to published scientific papers. If information from your photos directly results in information used in a scientific paper, we can acknowledge your contributions with your name if you desire. This study is being carried out by researchers at the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, and George Mason University, collaborating through NAOCC.

Please send your photos by November 15 to

See more about this project on Dr. Melissa McCormick's website.
News from NAOCC Collaborators - Around the Regions

Susan Pell Named Executive Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden

Congratulations to Susan K. Pell, Ph.D., who has been appointed as Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG)!

"Dr. Pell brings a powerful combination of plant science and leadership experience into this position,” said J. Brett Blanton, Architect of the Capitol, who oversees and supports the U.S. Botanic Garden. “She will lead the U.S. Botanic Garden to new heights in demonstrating the importance of plants while diversifying its offerings and visitorship in the Garden’s third century.”
As a botanist and an educator, Pell has spent her career at public gardens and has traveled the world to collect plants for scientific study. She joined the U.S. Botanic Garden in 2014 as the Science and Public Programs Manager and most recently served as Deputy Executive Director.

Prior to the USBG, Pell worked at The New York Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where she taught a diversity of plant science topics to students from toddlers to retirees, developed interpretation for the public, and directed molecular research and plant taxonomic studies using samples she collected on her expeditions and from gardens and parks in New York City. Pell holds a bachelor's degree in biology from St. Andrews University in North Carolina and a Ph.D. in plant biology from Louisiana State University. She is the co-author of the book “A Botanist’s Vocabulary” and has published numerous peer-reviewed scientific articles.

“I am thrilled to be selected to steward the U.S. Botanic Garden,” Pell says. “I am excited to work with the USBG team to leverage our expertise and diverse plant collections to build on the Garden’s success and continue to engage people from the D.C area, across the nation, and around the world.”

The USBG is an integral, founding collaborator of NAOCC, along with the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, the National Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian Gardens.
From Our Friends at the Native Orchid Conference (NOC)
The NOC's very popular series of online presentations will return for the Fall/Winter season, on the 4th Tuesday of each month starting at 8:30pm Eastern time (5:30pm Pacific time). Each presentation will be 40-50 minutes, with time for questions and discussion.

Schedule: (See schedule updates and recordings of past presentations on the NOC website.)

  • September 27, 2022: Lynnaun Johnson, PhD.  (former Case Grant recipient): Investigating Mycorrhizal Fungi as Drivers of Tree Specificity of Dendrophylax lindenii

  • October 25, 2022: Matthew Pace, PhD.  (New York Botanical Garden): Ongoing Monographic Studies in Spiranthes

  • November 22, 2022: Rick Burian  (NOC Vice-president) Orchids of Rhodes

  • January 24, 2023: Brandon Corder (former Case Grant recipient):Triphora: North America's Most Enigmatic Orchid Genus

  • February 28, 2023: Jyotsna Sharma, PhD. (Texas Tech University): Orchid ecology and conservation (Title TBD)

  • March 28, 2023: Hong Liu, PhD. (Florida International University): Orchid preservation (Title TBD)

If you have enjoyed presentations from the Native Orchid Conference, and wonderful Symposia (like this year's on the stunning Olympic Peninsula!), consider becoming a member! The next NOC Symposium will be in July, 2023 in orchid-rich Michigan - stay tuned.
Welcome to NAOCC's Newest Collaborators:

Based in central New York State, the Native Orchid Conservation Network (NOCN) aims to monitor, study and preserve native orchid populations in New York and the surrounding areas. Their goal is to work with with universities, agencies, organizations, and municipalities to preserve and restore native orchids. The NOCN and NAOCC now have a cooperative agreement to work together to develop our knowledge base about NY native orchid species.

In 2021, NOCN team members Michael Hough and Matthew Young published a paper in the Native Orchid Conference Journal (18.3), A Systematic Survey of the Spiranthes cernua Species Complex (Orchidaceae) in New York, in which they outlined the case for recognition of a new cryptic species, S. sheviakii.

We extend a warm welcome and look forward to working with the NOCN to advance native orchid conservation in New York and beyond!
New Photo Gallery on the NAOCC Website
This year's storms and winter flooding have reminded us that nearly half of present-day New York City was once wetlands. But as the city expanded, many of these natural areas were filled in and lost. Urban naturalist Dave Taft invites us to explore a forgotten side of the city. Within the five boroughs that make up this concrete jungle, towering forests, hidden wetlands, and expansive meadows form a patchwork of natural areas that create a home for orchids, often in surprising places.

There’s no need to jump on the subway or bus - Dave has done the legwork for us. Just sit back and enjoy his unique perspective of orchids in the Big Apple. To learn more about orchids, and other rare plants and animals, visit NEW YORK NATURE EXPLORER, a gateway to New York’s biodiversity.

Photo © Dave Taft

Right: The large whorled pogonia (Isotria verticillata), with its ruffled, flared lip and spreading sepals, is one of New York City’s most intriguing wildflowers. Rarely, double flowers may be found in thriving colonies.
Photo © David Taft
Above: Gateways into some of New
York City’s best wetlands aren’t grand.
Often holes in fences, laced with
poison ivy, point the way,
Photo © Dave Taft
Dave Taft, naturalist, artist, and orchid enthusiast, is Conservation Chair for the Greater New York and Long Island Orchid Societies. He has served as the Site Manager of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and is employed by the National Park Service as the Coordinator for the Brooklyn and Queens Units of Gateway National Recreation Area. He frequently photographs or paints familiar landscapes and objects found near the city’s parks and wild spaces. According to Dave, “There is always something unexpected about nature in New York City.”
Special thanks to NAOCC's gallery contributors! If you are an orchid photographer and have an idea for a new gallery, please let us know!
New orchid-gami Sponsors!

Thanks to the generous support from a family foundation and the Greater North Texas Orchid Society, the spotted lady’s slipper (Cypripedium guttatum) and the bearded grass pink (Calopogon barbatus) were recently sponsored, making a total of 24 orchid-gami models now available as punch-out cards. During the pandemic, orchid-gami has had a surge in use for educational, youth, and family activities. The models are a great way to teach conservation, learn about flower shape and color, and how pollinators interact with these amazing plants.
Orchid-gami was developed as an educational activity to raise awareness about conservation and ecology of our native orchids. These 3D models are a unique way for teachers, parents and children of all ages to learn about our native orchids and the challenges they face.
Photo © Jim Fowler
Right, Bottom: Bearded grass pink orchid-gami model

Photo © Marilyn Barker
Below, Right: Spotted lady's slipper orchid-gami model
Just a few remaining orchid-gami models need sponsors! You or your organization can sponsor a lovely orchid-gami model and support native orchid conservation.

View the models on the NAOCC web site.
Orchids in Journals, the Media, & More
Rediscovered After More Than a Century!

Officials with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department have confirmed a population of the small whorled pogonia, Isotria medeoloides, has been found growing in the state. This federally threatened orchid has been reported in the eastern US and Ontario, including Maine and New Hampshire, but had not been seen in Vermont since 1902 and was believed extirpated. Luckily, the newly-discovered population is on land protected by the Winooski Valley Park District.

The Department was first notified of a possible small whorled pogonia population in Vermont thanks to the observations of two community scientists, John Gange (a NAOCC collaborator) and Tom Doubleday. To learn more about this exciting rediscovery, see the official press release.
A Sampling of Recent Publications from NAOCC / SERC, Collaborators, & Colleagues:

This paper has been published, is now available through the journal website.
Selosse, Marc-André; Petrolli, Rémi; Mujica, María Isabel; Benoît Perez-Lamarque, Liam Laurent; Figura, Tomáš; Bourceret, Amelia; et al., (2022) The Waiting Room Hypothesis revisited by orchids: were orchid mycorrhizal fungi recruited among root endophytes?. Annals of Botany 129 (3), 259-270.
Kaur, Jaspreet; Sharma, Jyotsna. (2021). Orchid root associated bacteria: linchpins or accessories?. Frontiers in Plant Science, 1152.
Do you Want to Support Orchid Conservation?

NAOCC and our non-profit native orchid conservation collaborators appreciate your assistance - together, we can advance native orchid conservation! Here are four ways you can help:

  • Share: Tell family and friends about NAOCC’s, and our collaborators’ orchid conservation work, and share our newsletters and website information.

  • Inspire: By offering to match the donations of others, you can magnify the impact and encourage others to give!
Do you have native-orchid related events or news items to share with the NAOCC community? For inclusion in future NAOCC newsletters, please send any brief articles, pictures, or event notices to Julianne.
NAOCC is a coalition of organizations dedicated to conserving the diverse orchid heritage of the U.S. and Canada. Based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, NAOCC was established by the Smithsonian and the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Copyright © 2022 NAOCC / Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, All rights reserved.
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