The Western prairie fringed orchid is a nationally and provincially Endangered species. Within Canada, it is restricted to a 48 square km area that includes part of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near Vita. In the United States it is considered Threatened, and is rare in all seven states where it occurs. Human activities such as altering drainage, spraying or overgrazing also threaten the Western prairie fringed orchid. Plants that grow in roadside ditches are affected by road maintenance. Natural events such as hailstorms and late frosts also cause damage to Western prairie fringed orchids. Periodic fires, light to moderate grazing or occasional mowing appear to benefit these plants by setting back woody growth and reducing litter that might otherwise crowd them out.
The creamy white flowers of the Western prairie fringed orchid typically begin to open at the end of June. Between four to twenty of the fragrant flowers are arranged in a spike up to 88 cm high. The fragrance is stronger at night to attract moth pollinators. The number of plants producing flowers varies from year to year, and ranges from 2,000 to 21,000 in Manitoba. Plants that do not produce flowers may produce two or three leaves, or may remain dormant as an underground stem.
For more information on the Western prairie fringed orchid view the Manitoba's Species at Risk brochure (PDF document, 208 KB).