Last week, I was able to go to the North Carolina Rare Plant Discussion Meeting at the North Carolina Zoo. There were many interesting speakers who talked about various plant species including Venus Fly Traps, Cape Fear Spatterdock, Pitcher Plants, Small Whorled Pogonia, Smooth Purple Coneflower, Heller’s blazing star, and Bent Avens.

One of the more interesting presentations was by Dennis Whigham, who helped start the North American Orchid Conservation Cooperative. This is a coalition of organizations with the common goal of ensuring the survival of native orchids for future generations.

From their website, they state that “North America is home to over 200 orchid species, and more than half are endangered or threatened somewhere in their native range. The North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) was established by the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Botanic Garden to assure the survival of all native orchids in the U.S. and Canada.”

Other partners in this effort include the National Zoological Park, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Gardens, and many public and private organizations. Several other botanical gardens, the Nature Conservancy, the Million Orchid Project, and a number of colleges and universities are also partners in this effort.

They go on to say that “NAOCC activities will focus on establishing collections of seeds and orchid mycorrhizal fungi, developing protocols to propagate and restore all native orchid species and developing an interactive website to provide the public with a mechanism to identify and learn everything that is known about our native orchids.”

They make the point that the majority of orchid research has gone on in tropical regions, with no centralized effort to understand and preserve orchids in the United States and Canada. There are very few scientists and institutions working to study and preserve temperate orchids, and the rate of this research and conservation is far to slow to adequately preserve these species.

 You can learn about the orchid life cycle and fungal relationships on their website, They also have “orchid-gami” which is basically origami of native orchids. You can download orchid-gami pdfs from their website. There are 25 different orchids you can download. You can also purchase punch-out versions of the orchid-gami. They developed this fun activity to raise awareness about the conservation and ecology of our native orchids.

You can donate to the cause on their website, or contact Dennis Whigham to become involved. His email address is If you spot native orchids in our area, we’d love to see your pictures and you can email those to me at Together we can work to ensure that native orchids will be around for many more years to come.