Native Orchid Restoration Planting at Riveredge

Riveredge volunteers and staff, along with employees of Stantec, gathered to plant seedlings that will become the basis of our native orchid restoration project. Stantec, Smithsonian – North American Orchid Conservation Center, Sheboygan County, and Wisconsin Coastal Management Program are all partners in this wide-ranging orchid restoration project. Thank you to our friends at Sheboygan County, as well as American Transmission Company, for generously providing materials and labor to build the Orchid Shade House where these plants are being raised!

Melissa Curran of Stantec is the leader of this orchid restoration project throughout the Midwest. She explains to volunteers how to plant orchid seedlings in pots inside the Orchid Shade House at Riveredge.

The Journey of an Orchid Seed

Orchids seeds begin as tiny, difficult to see specks the size of dust, and are dispersed through the wind. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum propagates and provides the seedlings for this project.

Many people may not realize that orchids are native to the Midwest. Orchids throughout this region are terrestrial, meaning that these orchids grow in the soil. Epiphytic orchids, the types that grow with aerial roots, are more commonly known.

Terrestrial orchids have complex fungal relationships, and certain species of orchid seedlings will only grow with the help of certain species of fungus. These species relationships are still a part of the mystery scientists are trying to solve. In the interim, seedlings are raised in a media culture, which provides nutrients and functions as a surrogate fungal connection.

These orchid seedlings grow in clumps and have to be pulled apart delicate care.

A soil combination is mixed, which drains quickly and doesn’t retain more moisture than the plants prefer.

Thank You Orchid Restoration Volunteers!

Thanks to everyone who helped us plant our orchid seedlings! Many hands makes light work – if you’d like to volunteer to help restore orchids throughout the Midwest, learn about volunteering at Riveredge.

One orchid seedling is planted in every pot. These plants will harden off to become acquainted with the natural conditions in the wild inside our Orchid Shade House.

Of course, once the orchids are potted, that ever important ingredient – water! We’re still looking for volunteers to help water these fledgling flowers.

And voila! Two weeks after the initial planting a sea of orchid seedlings sprout their first leaves inside the Orchid Shade House! Some of these flowers will be planted at suitable locations throughout Riveredge. Many of the orchids are destined to be planted throughout the Midwest in habitats where they are likely to flourish, or will bolster or reestablish orchid populations that have existed historically.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel visited to chronicle our orchid planting day, read their story about the project here.