Orchids are renowned for their beauty, but most of us think of them as tropical plants growing in exotic locales. In truth, orchids are a diverse group of plants that can grow in most climates, with the exception of very cold or very dry locales, according to the Rainforest Alliance.
The orchid family is actually the largest family of plants in the world and includes between 25,000 and 30,000 different species. Of those, a handful can be found right here in Will County, including spotted coral-root, tubercled, eastern grass pink and Oklahoma grass pink orchids, yellow lady slippers, white lady slippers and lady’s tresses.
Several of the orchids found in Will County are here in such limited numbers that they are on the state’s lists for endangered and threatened species. Both the eastern and Oklahoma grass pink orchids, as well as the spotted-coral root, are included on Illinois’ endangered species list, while the tubercled orchid is on the state’s threatened species list. These are among several orchids in Illinois that are either endangered or threatened. Many species of orchids depend on a single species or small number of species of birds or insects for pollination, making them susceptible to habitat loss, according to the Rainforest Alliance.
Orchids are found in several Will County forest preserves; however, because some species are endangered or threatened, we do not identify their locations.