Manitoba

Nature Conservancy of Canada buys land to protect Manitoba's vanilla-scented orchid

​A rare and endangered orchid is now under the watchful eye of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Stuartburn home to Canada's only western-prairie fringed orchid blooms

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased land to protect the western-prairie fringed orchid in Manitoba. (Nature Conservancy of Canada )

A rare and endangered orchid is now under the watchful eye of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The conservancy recently bought land in Stuartburn, Man., to help protect the western-prairie fringed orchid.

"It's kind of this amazing flower. It's pretty tall -- it's between half a metre and a metre tall and it has this flowering spike at the top that has 20 or more individual white flowers that have fringes on the edges," said Cary Hamel, the conservancy's conservation science manager. "It's almost tropical."

Stuartburn is the only place in Canada the orchid grows, but the ones that do bloom there make up about 50 per cent of the global population of the flower.

"It's naturally rare. It depends not just on tall-grass prairie, but only certain kinds," said Hamel, who added it has specific water and soil needs. "There's only a couple species of moth that pollinate it."

The orchid typically blooms for two to three weeks at the start of July, and at night, the flower emits a vanilla-like smell to attract its pollinators.

"The species exists on farms and on ranch lands and people have taken care of it and its prairie habitat for a long time," said Hamel. "We're kind of losing sites all over the place so we really want to protect the most important spots left."

The conservancy bought 50 per cent of the area the endangered orchid grows on in Canada and will work with local farmers and land owners to make sure the orchid is preserved.

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