South Carolina Plant Conservation Alliance (SCPCA)

Rare Plant Conservation-Purpledisk honeycombhead (Balduina atropurpurea) under biological assessment

The purpledisk honeycombhead (Balduina atropurpurea) is currently under biological assessment.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is performing a Species Status Assessment to determine if the species warrants listing.  This species occurs in wet pine savannas and pitcher-plant bogs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  The areas typically have poorly drained soils that are acidic, sandy, and nutrient-poor.  Balduina atropurpurea occurs in the low, wet areas where water emerges from the soil surface and creates seepage.  Prescribed fire has shaped and characterized the wet pine savannas, seepage slopes, and/or pitcherplant bogs where Balduina occurs, by maintaining open conditions and reducing woody competition.

Balduina atropurpurea inflorescence/flower, photo by April Punsalan

The species is self-incompatible and requires cross-pollination for seed set.  Currently, in South Carolina, only one population remains on Department of Defense land where prescribed fire is a frequent management tool.  Historic locations are known from Florence and Darlington Counties.  This species could occur along powerline rights-of-way that are maintained in an open condition.  Please keep your eyes open for this species in South Carolina.  If you have any information in regards to this species please contact: April Punsalan, april_punsalan@fws.gov, https://www.fws.gov/charleston/staff.html

 

 

Schweinitz’s sunflower rescue

On May 24, Andy Cabe and a team of SCDOT workers went to work to save some  Schweinitz’s sunflowers (Helianthus schweinitzii) that were in danger of being destroyed by bridge construction. The SCDOT is in the process of replacing the S-654 bridge over Burgis Creek in York County. The endangered Schweinitz’s sunflower grows in the area, and would likely be impacted by the construction work.

Andy’s team collected nearly 150 plants, most of them bareroot but some with intact native soil. These plants will be safeguarded at the Riverbanks Botanical Garden until bridge construction is complete. Most of them will then be replanted in their former habitat in spring of 2019. A portion of the collected plants may be planted on Catawba Indian property nearby.

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May-white azaleas

SCPCA member Charles Horn is in the process of surveying for May-white azaleas in the state. This past weekend he surveyed Lynch’s Woods park in Newberry County, where the May-white was first documented in 2000. He found 202 plants!

Here are some images of these beautiful azaleas.

Musings on Plant Conservation

Check out this nice piece by RBG Kew horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, author of The Plant Messiah. The SCPCA is working on a propagation and restoration project with our local Schwalbea americana; it’s nice to know that the challenges related to this kind of work extend to all levels worldwide.

New Oxypolis canbyi population!

On April 12, Jason Ayers, Coastal Program biologist, was out in the field in northern Berkeley County with USFWS botanist April Punsalan, Partners Program biologist Bret Beasley, and FWS biologist Paula Sisson. April was searching for Schwalbea americana and the others were heading to the beautiful pond cypress savanna seen above. They had not made it 20 feet from the vehicle when, lo and behold, there was a brand new population of Oxypolis canbyi!

It is a very healthy population, 1000+ stems, and is already protected. They confirmed that is was O. canbyi by the stoloniferous rhizomes and the 5-9 rays per umbel character. Also, it had pinkish lower internodes. They will collect the fruit in the fall for seed safeguarding.

When the Recovery Plan was written in 1990, South Carolina had 15 extant O. canbyi populations. Now it has only five, one of which is this new one. Only four are protected, and only three (including this one) appear stable.

The site is actively managed with fire and has a long fire history. It is encouraging to find a new, healthy population in a site under active management, and raises the hope that there will be more new fire-managed sites to survey.

This is exciting news and commendable work by Jason and the rest of the team!

Helonias bullata count

On March 14, species lead Jim Fowler, along with SCPCA members David White and Frank Holleman, went out to Watson-Cooper Heritage Preserve to count the Helonias bullata on the site. Jim reports:

“Big, big thanks to David and Frank for taking time off to slog around the bogs with me counting plants. That made the job immeasurably easier for this first-time counter.

In order that the count must be easily replicated, and keeping in mind the nature of the plants in this population, I determined that we would count this year’s new rosettes and blooming stems. Counting separate plants is just not feasible or even possible at these sites.

To cut to the chase, here are the results:

First site, called the “Large Bog”:
2788 new rosettes and 89 flowering stems

Second site, called “Ben’s Bog”:
2070 new rosettes and 304 flowering stems

That gives a total of

4858 new rosettes and 393 flowering stems!!!

We did notice a good bit of herbivory on the flower stalks. Looks like it was deer, and I did see some deer tracks in the mud. We included the snipped flower stems in our count. I also noticed what appeared to be a small hog wallow nearby. Otherwise, the bogs appear to be in good shape. Maybe some removal of the aggressive dog hobble (Leucothe), especially at the “Large Bog” could be in their future.

There are 3 small, adjoining bogs about a mile or so away that we did not count. I’m hoping (hint, hint) that Austen will be able to work a count into her schedule soon so that we can get a complete count from the known sites up there. Those small bogs are separate from the two areas that we visited.”

A few days later, Austen Pickhardt and her crew made another trek through the woods and visited the original three discovery sites. Here are her counts:

Site: HB1 + HB2 (adjoining along same depression area):
Rosettes – 233 Flowering stems – 3

Site: HB3:
Rosettes – 59 Flowering stems – 2

That gives us the grand total for the population:
Rosettes – 5140 Flowering stems – 398

Here are some shots from their amazing adventure:

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At-Risk species on National Wildlife Refuges

Keith Bradley has prepared this report on At-Risk Plant Species Survey 2018 in national wildlife refuges in coastal South Carolina and Georgia.