Peter Palmiotto, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
The Carney Fen Wetland Complex in Carney, Michigan is thought to contain one of the largest populations of ram's head lady's slipper (Cypripedium arietinum Ait.f.) in the country. This thesis quantitatively and qualitatively assessed ram's head lady's slipper orchid habitat within the Carney Fen, specifically targeting 31 locations of the ram's head in three different habitat types. The goal was to describe the habitat in which ram's head lady's slippers grow within the fen ecosystem and offer recommendations for natural resource management and species conservation. The study found that ram's head lady's slippers prefer a boreal forest habitat, having the highest density/ha of 2526 plants/ha. The average soil pH for all ram's head plots was 6.8 with a range of pH from 6.3 to 7.0. The average basal area of trees was 45.6m²/ha and the average density of shrubs and saplings was 1502 stems/ha. Plots with ram's head were found to be significantly different from plots without ram's head in a multivariate comparison involving 13 variables. A number of these variables are significant predictors of ram's head lady's slipper habitat, such as mean soil pH, and mean shrub density. Ram's head density was positively correlated with mean percent cover of Carex pedunculata Muhl. ex. Willd. and Eurybia macrophylla (L.) Cass. Indicating that as the percent cover of these species increases, it is likely higher densities of ram's head will be found. This study is the first step in providing information that can be used for long-term conservation of ram's head lady's slipper habitat and the conservation of the fen ecosystem, which is the home of at least three other rare plant species.