Date of this Version
A small, isolated population of the threatened western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara Sheviak & Bowles) occurs at Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota, in a mesic prairie that is periodically burned to control invasive cool-season grasses. During 1995-2004, monitoring counts of flowering orchids in the monument varied considerably for different years. Similar precipitation amounts in the spring and histories of burning suggest that fire and precipitation in the spring were not the causes of the variation. For the eight non-burn years in the monitoring record, we compared the number of flowering plants and the precipitation amounts during six growth stages of the orchid and found a 2-variab1e model (precipitation during senescence/bud development and precipitation in the dormant period) explained 77% of the annual variation in number of flowering plants. We also conducted a fire experiment in early May 2002, the typical prescribed burn period for the monument, and found that the frequency of flowering, vegetative, and absent plants observed in July did not differ between burned and protected locations of orchids. We used the model and forecasts of precipitation in the spring to develop provisional burn decision scenarios. We discussed management implications of the scenarios.