Joe Purdon Stewardship Pioneer

Joe Purdon

Joe Purdon holds a clump of orchids from the fen.

Purdon Conservation Area would not exist without Joe Purdon. In the 1930s, Mr. Purdon discovered a clump of about a dozen Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids growing in the wetland on his farm. His love of the outdoors led him to investigate the nature of wetlands and the special needs of the orchids.

He learned the wetland was a “fen’. A fen is a type of wetland fed by surface or groundwater or both. Fens are characterized by their water chemistry which is neutral or alkaline. Historically the area was known as Purdon Bog, however, a bog is actually acidic and fed by only by rainwater.

A fen is an ideal habitat for Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids. While working in the fen, Mr. Purdon studied orchid cultivation and he began to apply beneficial management practices, including thinning the brush to create new areas for orchid development, maintaining appropriate water levels and hand pollination. For the next 50 years, Mr. Purdon became the steward of this wetland and the orchids multiplied and thrived there.

 

As he neared the end of his life, Mr. Purdon wanted to ensure that the wetlands would be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations. Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, with the help of Ontario Heritage Trust, acquired the site in 1984 and continues to manage and preserve the area for the public.

Thanks to the remarkable work of Joe Purdon and his concern for the future of this unique property, it remains a popular destination for nature lovers year round and especially during the orchid blooming season from mid-June to early July.

Follow us on Twitter @purdonorchids for  bloom updates starting in June.