Managing the Orchids

Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchid peak at Purdon Conservation Area slightly later this year

June 20, 2014 – Sorry Dads, the orchids weren’t blooming for the big day, however, they should reach full bloom this week. Plan your trip now to catch the flowers at their peak.

“Father’s Day weekend is our benchmark for the peak bloom period to start. The orchids started blooming a bit later this year so there was not much of a show for Father’s Day. We do anticipate full bloom to be reached in the next few days and last into next week and weekend,” says MVC.

The site, a Seven Wonder of Lanark County, is owned and operated by Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA).The water management organization is responsible for 410 ha. of conservation area lands across the Mississippi River watershed.

“The orchid blooms are the jewels of this site, MVCA has managed the orchid colony—a fen wetland—and the adjacent forest property for 30 years, relying on local expert advice and staff to ensure the success of the flowers.”

The orchid colony exists today thanks to the care and cultivation of Mr. Joe Purdon—the conservation area is a truly amazing legacy of this local stewardship pioneer. After purchasing the property in 1984 with the help of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, MVCA pledged to preserve the site for public enjoyment.

The conservation authority cares for the colony following a management plan created by Ted Mosquin, a well-known ecologist, who has volunteered his expertise since the mid-1980’s.

The active management of the site consists of some tree clearing to allow more light into the fen, water level management through the beaver pond (also known as Purdon Lake), and hand pollination. These orchids don’t attract insects like other flowers; hand pollination helps ensure the seeds are propagated.

In recent years, deer predation has had an impact on the number of blooms. While the plants did not perish, buds and flowers were eaten impacting the aesthetics of the blooming season. The regular application of organic deer repellant has been included in the management practices. It can take up to 15 years for new plants to bloom so measuring of progress can be a slow process.

This summer, a group of orchid specialists will undertake a full census of the fen to record the number of blooms this season. This is done once every five years to track bloom success on the site.

Visitors can stroll along an accessible boardwalk for an up close view of the flowers. The Ted Mosquin Highland Trail is a more challenging 1.3 km route alongside Purdon Lake and into the woodland that surrounds the orchid colony. Interpretive signs lead you through the site identifying the plants and wildlife and telling the Purdon story.

If you would like to support the upkeep of the conservation area, think about the Adopt-an-Orchid program. For a $50.00 donation your name or that of a loved one will be commemorated on a cedar plaque affixed to an “Orchid Tree” on the site. Forms are available on site or online at www.mvc.on.ca.

This unique wetland habitat is located north of the village of Lanark off County Road 8. The boardwalk, lower parking lot and washrooms are wheelchair accessible. Bus tours are welcome. Admission is by donation and the site is open dawn to dusk. Visit the MVCA website at www.mvc.on.ca for regular Bloom Updates or follow @purdonorchids on Twitter.

Orchids

A clump of Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids at Purdon Conservation Area

Ted Mosquin

Ecologist Ted Mosquin hand pollinates a Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchid at Purdon Conservation Area.