The mission of South Carolina Plant Conservation Alliance is to coordinate rare plant conservation activities in the state to ensure no local extinctions. To achieve this goal, we connect university programs, botanical gardens, government agencies, land managers, environmental consultants, and botanical experts to facilitate collaboration and coordination of statewide plant conservation activities.
The southeastern U.S. supports 33% of the total number of plant species in the United States on just 17% of the land mass. South Carolina alone is home to over 3000 vascular plant species, an extraordinary amount of species richness for a relatively small state. A large number of these plants grown in hot spots of biological diversity such as rock outcrops, cataract and southern Appalachian bogs, sandhills, cove forests, relict prairies, and remnants of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem.
Many of these species and communities are endangered. There are 22 federally listed and 34 at-risk plant species in South Carolina. Many of these are rare because their entire communities are threatened; Carolina bays, coastal sand dunes, rocky shoals, Piedmont seepage forests, cedar swamps, and bottomland hardwood communities have all been reduced to fragments of their pre-development incarnations.
Extinction rates for plant species worldwide are seven times greater than for animals. Botanic Gardens in Conservation International (BGCI) estimates that there are about 400,000 species of plants in the world and that one in five of these are threatened with extinction. Threats include habitat loss and degradation, competition with introduced invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change.
The SCPCA’s goal is to ensure that rare plant populations remain extant and not extirpated. We do this by surveying wild populations, propagating rare plants in botanical gardens for safeguarding and reintroduction, and through educational outreach.