One of the most aggressive weeds in North America has invaded the natural habitat of the western prairie fringed orchid and has caused the delicate flower to teeter on the brink of extinction. Now weed scientists are regaining the upper hand with integrated control techniques that are eliminating the leafy spurge and giving the rare orchid a chance to bounce back.
Lawrence, KS (PRWEB) September 28, 2009 -- The western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) is a delicate wildflower that has been teetering on the brink of extinction. The culprit? Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), one of the most aggressive weeds in North America, is destroying the orchid's remaining natural habitat. Scientists are turning the tide with new integrated weed control strategies that are giving the rare orchid a chance to bounce back.
Dr. Rodney Lym, a professor of plant sciences with North Dakota State University, explains that leafy spurge has invaded thousands of acres of meadowlands and prairies west of the Mississippi that were once the fringed orchid's home.
"The extent of the problem is really staggering," Lym says. "Leafy spurge grows so aggressively it is upsetting natural ecosystems and dramatically reducing biodiversity as it crowds out native species."
The Sheyenne National Grassland in southeastern North Dakota is home to one of the largest remaining stands of the western prairie fringed orchid. The plant grows on only 1,200 of Sheyenne's 23,750 acres and is classified as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
Lym and fellow researchers in the Plant Sciences Department at North Dakota State University decided to design a leafy spurge control strategy that would protect the orchid's natural habitat. In doin
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