Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 8, pp 1965-1976

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Orchid (Orchidaceae) decline in the Catoctin Mountains, Frederick County, Maryland as documented by a long-term dataset

  • Wesley M. KnappAffiliated withMaryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service Email author 
  • , Richard WiegandAffiliated withMaryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service


A 41-year study (1968–2008) of the orchids of the Catoctin Mountains, Frederick County, Maryland reveals that 19 of 21 species have experienced precipitous declines. Four of these species are currently considered Threatened or Endangered by the State of Maryland and another two are considered Rare. Annual census data at 167 sites from throughout the Catoctin Mountains on protected and unprotected lands (private and public) show a loss of three species from the study area, a decline of >90 % (ranging from 99 to 91 %) in seven species, and a decline of <90 % (ranging from 51 to 87 %) for nine species. Each species was analyzed using Ordinary Least Squares Analysis to show trends and document corresponding R2 and p values. We tested the hypothesis that this decline is due to intensified herbivory by white-tailed deer. The overall orchid census data is significantly inversely-correlated (R = −0.93) to the white-tailed deer harvest data of Frederick County (a surrogate for population size), which includes the entirety of the study area. Platanthera ciliaris showed a huge expansion at a single site explicitly managed for this species otherwise this orchid showed a decline similar to the other species. Proper management is critical for the continuation of the orchid species in this study, be it control of the white-tailed deer herd or combating woody plant succession in the case of P. ciliaris.


Deer herbivory Habitat management Rare species Conservation