(WPRI) — A small population of the state-endangered crested fringed orchids was recently discovered in Bristol County after nearly two decades, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
The flower was found by State Botanist for MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program Dr. Robert Wernerehl. It has not been seen in Massachusetts since 2001, despite numerous surveys by botanists.
“Although I locate many rare species every year, this find took my breath away,” Wernerhl said. “Given the condition of the site, and the knowledge that many botanists have searched fruitlessly for this rarity for years, I was not at all expecting to find it.”
This is the northernmost population of the crested fringed orchid in the United States and the only one in the New England, according to MassWildlife.
The next closest population of the flower is known to be on Long Island, where it is also considered a state-endangered species.
The location of the flower is not being disclosed because of its rarity. It was made public that it was found because it is on public land that is partially protected.
“While forcing my way through dense shrubby thickets laden with poison ivy, I kept reminding myself to move slowly and keep looking,” Wernerhl said. “Glancing down, a bright orange spot in the tangle of branches caught my eye, and as I bent over the plant, I knew immediately I had found it, but thought, can this really be happening?”
Wernerhl was able to locate and record eight of the plants. There have been four documented records of the flower on this site, in 1905, 1908, 1987 and 2001, but each time it was only one or two plants.
The crested fringed orchid blooms in August and has small orange petals.