Dr. Jyotsna Sharma, who is an Associate Professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, is leading conservation research projects at Watson Native Plant Preserve since 2012. The focus of her lab’s work is on one of the rare and superbly showy orchids of Texas. Platanthera chapmanii (Chapman’s orchid) is known from only a few locations in southeastern Texas, and Watson Native Plant Preserve hosts the largest population in Texas. Her work has included:
1) augmenting the native population of the species
2) locating new populations of the species in Big Thicket National Preserve
3) developing effective propagation methods for P. chapmanii, and
4) study of mycorrhizal ecology of the species. In nature, all orchid seeds depend on mycorrhizal fungi for germination, and as seedlings develop into mature plants, they maintain this relationship with their partner fungi.
Graduate (M.S.) student Kirsten E. Poff conducted manipulative experiments to test questions related to propagation and mycorrhizal symbiosis. Ms. Poff graduated in 2016 and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawai
Other team members: Mr. Joe Liggio, Mr. Jim Willis, and Ms. Pauline Singleton assisted with research activities and facilitated permits and other logistics. Without their help, none of the activities would have been possible.
Two-year old laboratory-cultured plants of Platanthera chapmanii were planted at Watson Native Plant Preserve. Survival and emergence has been recorded at >90% two years after planting. Over the years, Dr. Sharma’s team has added hundreds of plants of the species to WNPP
1. Richards M and J Sharma. 2014. A review of conservation efforts for Platanthera chapmanii in Texas and Georgia. Native Orchid Conference Journal 11: 1-11. ISSN 1554-1169.
2. Poff, KE. 2016. Platanthera chapmanii: culture, population augmentation, and mycorrhizal associations. M.S. thesis (Supervisor: J. Sharma). Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. pp. 142.
3. Poff, KE, J Sharma, and M Richards. 2016. Cold-moist stratification improves germination in a temperate terrestrial orchid. Castanea 81: xx-xx. (In Press)