Habitat Loss                                          A grassroots movement towards orchid conservation


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Goodyera pubescens
Goodyera pubescens photo by Jim Fowler

Platanthera ciliaris
Platanthera ciliaris photo by Jim Fowler

Plantanthera clavellata
Plantanthera clavellata photo by Jim Fowler

Platanthera lacera
Platanthera lacera photo by Jim Fowler

Pogonia ophioglossoides photo by Jim Fowler

Pogonia ophioglossoides photo by Jim Fowler

Spiranthes cernua
Spiranthes cernua photo by Jim Fowler

Spiranthes lacera photo by Jim Fowler

Malaxis unifolia
Malaxis unifolia

Malaxis unifolia
Malaxis unifolia

Motorcycle & ATV

Motorcycle/ ATV pit

bog stream
Healthy bog

Platanthera lacera
Platanthera lacera

Sarracenia purpurea Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea (northern purple pitcher plant) photo by Jim Fowler

Orchid Habitat Loss

Mountain Fellowship Center  text by Mark Sullivan, pictures by Mark Sullivan and Jim Fowler
(not all pictures of orchids taken at this location)

More pictures by Jim Fowler visit: https://www.pbase.com/jimfowler/root

Malaxis unifolia from the top

Mountain Fellowship Center was land given to Fayette County, PA with the stipulation that it be used for unrestricted recreation by the public.

Several wetlands sit on top of acidic sandstone. The wetlands consist of ponds, bogs, and seepage meadows. Eight species of orchids have been observed at one time or another in this area: Goodyera pubescens (Downy Rattlesnake Plantain), Malaxis unifolia (Green Adders' Mouth), Plantanthera clavellata (Club Spur Orchid), Platanthera ciliaris (Yellow Fringed Orchid), Platanthera lacera (Ragged Fringed Orchid), Pogonia ophioglossoides (Rose Pogonia), Spiranthes cernua (Nodding Ladies' Tresses), and Spiranthes lacera var gracilis (Southern Slender Ladies' Tresses).

Malaxis unifolia
Malaxis unifolia

As Mountain Fellowship Center is open to unrestricted recreational use. It is a favorite place for motorcycles and ATV's. The area is crisscrossed with ATV tracks, bare spots, and a pit that used to be a bog. The above Malaxis unfolia was photographed right at the edge of the motorcycle/ATV pictured below. It is only a matter of time before the spot it grows in is bare dirt.

ATV / Motorcycle Pit

There is a bog relatively close to the motorcycle/ATV pit which has yet to be touched by motorized recreational vehicles. It is probably only a matter of time before this bog is destroyed. The problem with unrestricted recreational access is that the activities of some can obliterate the recreational activities of others. Orchid lovers will lose more orchid habitat as the wetlands become the playground of the motorcyclists and ATVers. This was probably not the intent of the land donor.  The motorcyclists and ATVers are probably not aware of what natural treasures are on the land and what they are running over. To them, it is just a big motorcycle/ATV park.

The motorcycle rider in the video was one of two motorcyclists and one ATVer that showed up while I was there. In the video he is entering the pit, but on seeing people photographing on the side of the pit, they decided to go elsewhere. You can see the heads of the people photographing towards the end of the clip. They were camera shy.

Most habitat loss results from human actions without the understanding of what is being lost. Conservation is about many things. One thing it is about is choice. You need to know all the aspects and ramifications that need to be weighed to make the best choice. Some restrictions can allow a greater number of people and activities to happen on public land. This is not to say kick the motorcyclists and ATVers out. The pit is a foregone conclusion.  However, if other wetlands in the surrounding area meet the same fate then other uses such as enjoying orchids in the wild can't happen.

Pogonia ophioglossoides
Pogonia ophioglossoides photo by Jim Fowler

What a healthy bog should look like.

Markleysburg Bog

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Latitude: 39.763881 Longitude: -79.466634