Biotic Characterization of Cypripedium Species as a Model Conservation Program

Friday, 13 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Fiona G. Sweeney, St. Johnsbury Academy, Piermont, NH
We are conducting a conservation program to thoroughly investigate all the biotic characteristics of the locally threatened or protected species of terrestrial orchids endemic to New Hampshire and Vermont: Cypripedium reginae, Cyp. acaule, Cyp. arietinum, and Cyp. parviflorum. Our research uses axenic seed culture to accelerate seed germination and seedling development and efficiently produce the several thousand Cyp. reginae seedlings we require to carry out our experiments. In 2014, we raised about 2,200 Cyp. reginae seedlings. This brings our total seedling production of Cyp. reginae since 2011 to over 7,000. We have used the seedlings to study histological properties, methods of vernalization, soil propagation, and habitat requirements. Our observational data on annual seedpod production of Cyp. parviflorum and Cyp. reginae in the wild suggests that less than 25% of the mature plants produce seedpods each year. Histological examination of Cyp. reginae reveals approximately 297 ovules in one vertical section of one half of an immature ovary at 100X magnification. About 200 vertical sections can be made from one seedpod. This explains how a single mature seedpod can contain over 200,000 seeds. We have raised 80 seedlings in outdoor cold frames, with the leaves of some plants currently reaching over 7cm in length. In addition to the cold frames on our campus, we are creating three other sanctuaries in our region. Although we have been successful in axenically propagating Cyp. reginae, with germination rates of less than six weeks and germination percentages typically greater than 50%, we have been less successful in the axenic culture of the other three species. We are conducting experiments on these three species to improve their germination rates in axenic culture.