Demographics, Life Cycle, Habitat Characterization and Transplant Methods for the Endangered Orchid, Spiranthes parksii Correll
Hammons, Jonathan R.
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Spiranthes parksii Correll is an endemic terrestrial orchid to the Post Oak Savannah of East Texas and is currently listed as federally endangered. The construction of Twin Oaks landfill, approximately 20 km east of College Station, TX, will destroy an estimated 379 S. parksii individuals and 44.7 ha of its habitat. Research has been funded to mitigate for this loss and includes documenting demographics, life cycle, local and landscape habitat, and on-site transplantation of S. parksii. Results found that S. parksii was highly variable between years at Twin Oaks and might be due to seasonal rainfall in rosette and early flowering growth. It was also found variable in its production of a rosette and influorescence from year to year. Individual plants were found to occur farther from drainages in higher count years, probably due to soil moisture, although further research should be conducted to confirm this hypothesis. A significant difference (p = 0.026) was found for percent canopy cover > 2 m above 1 m x 1 m quadrats with and without S. parksii, with a mean of 55 percent with S. parksii and 97 percent without S. parksii. A Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling ordination revealed three different combinations of herbaceous species that occur with S. parksii, which were driven by the presence of three dominant bunch grasses of the Post Oak Savannah: Schizachyrium scoparium, Chasmanthium laxum var. sessiliflorum, and Andropogon ternarius. A close to significant difference (p = 0.07) was found for the leaf litter depth between quadrats with and without S. parksii, with a fewer number of stacked leaves with S. parksii. Analysis of aerial images indicated woody encroachment on Twin Oaks from 1958 to 2004 in areas that have not been mechanically cleared. Additionally, S. parksii was found to persist in an open savannah landscape and likely occurred in the same locations and more widespread in 1958 than are currently found. Transplantation of S. parksii was documented to be successful by a soil-intact method. While a bare-root method showed success with S. cernua, no conclusions can be made of its success for S. parksii due to a low sample size (n = 10).