Conservation Projects

 

Committee:

Keith Tassin (Chair):  The Nature Conservancy

Ron Determann:  Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Debbie Folkerts:  Auburn University

Dee Smith:  Auburn University

Patrick Thompson:  Auburn University

Rebecca Godwin:  Auburn University


In 2009 the Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance formed a committee to address a project focused on the enhancement of existing populations of the Federally Endangered Alabama Canebrake Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia rubra subsp. alabamensis).  The Alabama Canebrake Pitcher Plant is a carnivorous plant that is endemic to central Alabama and known from fewer than 15 sites.  This species has significantly declined due to modern forestry practices, fire suppression, and agriculture practices.


Historically the plant occurred along seepage slopes and stream margins in open fire-maintained longleaf pine uplands.  Most of the currently known sites occur in Autauga and Chilton Counties on private property. Large healthy populations exist at fewer than 5 sites.  This committee was formed to work on expanding existing populations by transplanting pitcher plants that have been grown at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens from seeds collected at these sites. 


In the summer and fall of 2009 the committee cleared competing woody vegetation and out-planted approximately 50 plants at Camp Tukabatchee Boy Scout Camp in Autauga County.  The Camp Tukabatchee project site was selected as the first project of this committee because it is considered one of the best sites, it is protected and is being managed with fire.  At the scout camp the committee selected two sites, one which expanded upon the existing population and another along a nature trail to be used by the Boy Scouts for educational purposes. Both sites were later included in prescribed burns conducted by The Nature Conservancy. 


The most recent observations are encouraging. Flowering is occurring and plants are doing well as long as fire can be used to manage them. Future burns will need to be conducted to encourage more flowering and seedling production at these sites.


New germplasm was obtained from a person who rescued plants from the Pierce site, which as been extirpated. Seedlings from those plants are being propagated at Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

Committee:

Bob Boyd (chair):  Auburn University

Henning Von Schmeling:  Chattahoochee Nature Center

Ron Determann:  Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Patrick Thompson:  Auburn University

Dee Smith:  Auburn University

Mincy Moffett:  Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Mike Hardig:  University of Montevallo

Amy Wright:  Auburn University

Jan Midgley:  Grower, author, educator


Xyris spathifolia was described in 2009 by Kral and Moffett (Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 3(2): 469-478). This species is known from a single small site in Bibb County Alabama. This new species is one of nine new vascular plant taxa discovered during the last 12 years from the Ketona Glades, a botanical “hot spot” of dolomitic limestone outcrops limited to Bibb County. Since it is newly described, it has no federal status. NatureServe lists the species as G1 and S1.


This new species was found intermixed with federally endangered Xyris tennesseensis in a small seepage fen approximately 24 square meters in size. This fen occurs at a glade called Alligator Glades West by the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. The site is currently owned by a timber management organization called Forest Investment Associates.


This new species is in serious condition. Xyris plants tend to grow in clumps in which counts of individuals are not practical. Censuses of X. tennesseensis usually rely on counting flowering spikes. When discovered in 1999, there were about 900 spikes of X. spathifolia from 200 clumps. A visit to the site in 2009 failed to relocate any spikes or plants.


Fortunately, Mincy Moffett had maintained a single pot of plants from that site and to our knowledge it contained all the remaining plants in existence in 2009. This APCA project has two objectives. First, we would like to clear some of the encroaching woody vegetation from the Alligator Glades West site to see if that action might stimulate germination of plants or recovery of suppressed plants. Second, Moffett has divided the plants from his pot to spread them among several persons or institutions who will continue to propagate them. This will allow us to prevent extinction of the species and eventually some of these plants may be reintroduced to the original site or outplanted into new populations.


As of May 2014, plants are being maintained by Moffett and Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The committee will continue to propagate plants and spread them among cooperating institutions and individuals.

Alabama Canebrake Pitcher Plant

Haines Island Park

Committee:

Gena Todia (Chair):  Wetland Resources Environmental Consulting

Nancy Loewenstein:  Auburn University


Haines Island Park is 480 acres of land located on the Alabama River in Monroe County and is owned and managed by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Alabama River Lakes water resources development project. The park is situated in the Southern Red Hills region of the East Gulf Coastal Plain and is home to some rare plant and animal species, including the Red Hills salamander, a federally-listed species. A few interesting plant species that occur in the park and general vicinity include Piedmont rhododendron (Rhododendron minus), bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), eastern greenviolet (Hybanthus concolor), northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin), cucumber-tree (Magnolia acuminata), and bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).


Unfortunately, invasive exotic plants are becoming established in some areas. The exotics are currently at a very manageable stage, so now is a good time to intervene and prevent the situation from becoming much worse. After coordination with the Corps Resource Manager for the park, a joint APCA/ALIPC (Alabama Invasive Plant Council) work day to kill invasive exotics was held on April 30, 2010. Although the group of participants was small, a lot of work was accomplished.  


We have since had a couple more work days and have begun work on a flora for the site. Future efforts will target the kudzu that is beginning to invade, and continue our other control efforts and adding to the floristic inventory.

Ketona Glades Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris spathifolia)

Committee:

Jan Midgley (Chair):  Grower, author, educator

Patrick Thompson:  Davis Arboretum, Auburn University

Ron Determann:  Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Ryan Shurette:  U.S. Forest Service


Xerophyllum asphodeloides (L.) Nutt. (Eastern Turkeybeard) is a perennial forb in the Liliaceae family.  It occurs in the lower 48 states from Delaware to AL (AL, DE, GA, KY, MD, NC, NJ, SC, TN, VA, WV). It is “rare” in GA, “historical” in KY and DE, and “threatened” in TN. In Alabama, it is known to occur at two sites in the Talledega National Forest (TNF), one in Cleburne County and the other in Calhoun County. The Alabama Heritage Program ranks it G4, S1. It blooms in full sun in June on dry rocky northwest facing ridges. It has a showy raceme of perfect white flowers standing 3 feet above a tuft of grasslike leaves. The basal foliage resembles a young longleaf pine tree.


The longleaf pines of these Appalachian ridges and the turkeybeard both respond to regular burning. The US Forest Service has burned the turkeybeard site and plans to continue to burn this hogback ridge above Shoal Creek regularly. Thus the Alabama turkeybeard site is protected by ownership (USFS) and by maintenance (burning).

The TNF Shoal Creek District Biologist (Jeff Gardner, in 2009) and the Forest Botanist (Ryan Shurette) wondered if more plants could be introduced to appropriate sites in the TNF using plants grown from seeds from the Calhoun County site. A group of four people collected seeds July 18, 2009 and they were distributed to four growers: Jan Midgley (Wildflower nursery), Patrick Thompson  (Auburn), Ron Determann (Atlanta Botanical Garden), and Phil Oyerly (Mt. Cuba Center, DE). The first seed batch appeared to be a bit green so a second stalk was collect September 9, 2009 by Ryan Shurette. These seeds were quickly distributed to the same growers. Each used various propagation techniques but few if any seeds have germinated. Most of the seeds continue to appear imbibed and healthy.

At our May 2012 meeting, it was reported that Georgia Tech (Jerry Pullman Lab) has germinated seeds by removing embryos and using cytokinins. It also was reported that Ron Determann has germinated thousands of seeds, so maybe propagation by seed is not always as difficult as it has appeared.


This project would benefit greatly from multiple additional investigations, such as: soil sampling, geologic description, mapping, study of possible introduction sites, and long term monitoring of the parent site and introduction sites.

Turkeybeard

Giant Whorled Sunflower

Committee:

Wayne Barger (chair):  Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Brian Holt:  Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Dee Smith:  Auburn University

Patrick Thompson:  Auburn University


This species was first discovered in Tennessee in 1892, but was thought to have been extinct until 1994 when it was rediscovered in Georgia. Subsequent efforts have located the whorled sunflower in four distinct populations (TN, GA, and AL). Helianthus verticillatus has been listed as a Federal Endangered Species Candidate since 1999.

Population analysis performed by Dr. Jennifer Ellis Mandel in 2006-2007, as part of her dissertation work at Vanderbilt University, revealed that although stems number into the thousands, the actual number of genetically distinct individuals was much lower than the number of stalks. This is a result of aggressive clonal/asexual reproduction within the population. The total worldwide number of genetically distinct individuals may only range between 300-400 plants. Several peer-reviewed publications on the species have resulted from Dr. Mandel’s work.

In 2008, the two reported Helianthus verticillatus (Giant Whorled Sunflower) sites in Alabama were visited to assess the status of this species in our state. One population appears to have been extirpated, while the other population had approximately 30 mature individuals. Work to improve the site and partner with the Cherokee County Highway Department began immediately. “Do Not Mow” signs were posted and encroaching woody stems were cut in early 2009. In the Fall of 2009, population estimates had increased to near 10-fold the 2008 the number of mature stems, to approximately 300 stems. 

Follow-up visits in the Fall of 2010 revealed that early season (late May?) roadside mowing and subsequent drought conditions had a negative impact on the population. A total of 29 flowering heads in various stages of development were observed, with vegetative stems ranging between 100-125 stems. The extirpated site will be rechecked annually to see if any plants can be relocated.

Six plants (removed from the Cherokee County, AL site in early May 2010) are being propagated for seeds. Collection of seeds from these plants resulted in hundreds of seedlings that have are being grown out by gardens and individuals in the state.  They will be displayed and safeguarded in AL and GA.  The committee is working on a plan to augment the wild population with the seedlings produced by APCA members.

Committee:

Wayne Barger (chair):  Alabama Department of

Conservation and Natural Resources

Ron Determann:  Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Debbie Folkerts:  Auburn University

Dee Smith:  Auburn University

Patrick Thompson:  Auburn University

Dan Everson:  US Fish and Wildlife Service


Sarracenia oreophila was listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979. It is restricted to areas of the Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley provinces in northeast Alabama, northwest Georgia and far western North Carolina. In 1994, the year of the most recent recovery plan, only 35 sites were known. Population sizes ranged from one to several thousand plants, with plant being defined as a clump of pitchers. Poor site conditions and lack of seedling recruitment sites may lead to poor seedling recruitment. However, rhizomes are long-lived and asexual reproduction via rhizomes is the probably the principal mode of reproduction in established populations.

Currently we are working with Mr. Larry Ross, owner of Serenity Campground, to propagate plants from a population that occurs in Mentone, AL (DeKalb County). This population has approximately 35 basal rosettes that may belong to as few as 8 genetically distinct individuals.  Seed production/collection has only occurred with 2 of these individuals.  The plants are growing along a sandy stream and near the edge of a pond (approximately 9 years old) that was created by damming the stream below the plant site. Other plants were likely lost during the creation of the pond, though many appropriate sites exist along the pond which have good potential for augmenting the existing population.

Ron Determann (Atlanta Botanical Gardens) has grown 75 seedlings.   Twenty-five have been repatriated to the Davis Arboretum where they will be safeguarded in conservation holdings and on display. We estimate that 3-5 years of seed collection (and growing of resulting plants) may be required before we have enough plants equivalent in size to those used in the APCA out-planting of S. rubra subsp. alabamensis.

Time could become a critical factor in the success of preserving this genotype and efforts to increase seed production have been employed.  This should broaden the genetic base for the plants that would be utilized during reintroduction.  Efforts to manage the site for Sarracenia have included: selective weeding, mowing and manually removing and pruning encroaching woody plants. 

Property across the street from Serenity Campground is part of Desoto State Park. Scouting efforts may reveal suitable habitat that could eventually serve to expand the range of this genotype into that more secure location.


Green Pitcher Plant

Committee:

Wayne Barger (chair):  Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Brian Holt:  Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Dee Smith:  Auburn University

Patrick Thompson:  Auburn University


The Flora of North America (Vol. 3) describes this Alabama endemic species as forming shrubs/small trees (up to ~20ft.). The plants are rhizomatous and have a scaly, brown bark. The typically three-lobed 3” long by 1.5” wide leaves are commonly oblanceolate to obovate with a slightly revolute margin and cuneate base. The upper surface of the leaf is dark, glossy green with the underside having silvery-gray stellate hairs. This species is typically found in association with sandstone outcrops or deep sandy soils.

This species of conservation concern has an uncertain distribution and is likely often overlooked. Hybrids with Quercus margaretta are known and can make absolute identification difficult.

Currently, The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Davis Arboretum are safeguarding Etowah County 2008 acorn-grown plants collected and grown by researchers from the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware.  Root cuttings from a Jefferson County specimen (see photo of cuttings in pots) are being safeguarded by the Davis Arboretum and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Continued propagation and safeguarding of wild populations is planned. 


Boynton’s Oak

Seedlings (lft.)

and mature

plants (rt.) in the

new nature trail population

Committee:

John Manion (Chair):   Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Brian Keener:   University of West Alabama

Wayne Barger:   Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Patrick Thompson:   Davis Arboretum, Auburn University

Mike Hardig:   University of Montevallo

Richard and Nancy Cobb


Among the rarest of Alabama’s endemics, Tutwiler’s spleenwort (Asplenium tutwilerae) is known from a single, small population in Hale County, where it grows in a shaded ravine on a type of conglomerate stone known as puddingstone. The photo above right shows Brian Keener, who along with Larry Davenport corrected the species’ name and discussed its hybrid origin in 2007, along with some plants growing in their typical style on the side of a rock face. The photo top left shows the Committee Chair, John Manion, with several small ferns visible on the rock to the right side of the photo.

This relatively diminutive fern was only recently described by botanists as a fertile hybrid species. It developed through a type of speciation known as reticulate evolution, in which the offspring of the two parent species (Asplenium platyneuron, ebony spleenwort, and A. rhizophyllum, walking fern) are fertile and reproduce true to type, as opposed to creating a “one-time” sterile hybrid. The population was first written up by Julia Tutwiler, one of Alabama’s education pioneers and an amateur botanist, in 1873, and the fern is named in her honor. John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden curator at Birmingham Botanical Gardens is leading the Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance’s task force for this plant. The committee is especially grateful to members Richard and Nancy Cobb, who have monitored this population for several years and have guided botanical enthusiasts to the site.


Tutwiler’s Spleenwort