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.
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 canbyii!
It is a very healthy population, 1000+ stems, and is already protected. They confirmed that is was O. canbyii 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. canbyii 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!
“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
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:
Keith Bradley has prepared this report on At-Risk Plant Species Survey 2018 in national wildlife refuges in coastal South Carolina and Georgia.
To ensure that the Service is able to consider any new information you might be aware of when completing this review, we request that you provide it by May 11, 2018. In particular we are looking for information on the following:
1. Species biology, including, but not limited to, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics;
2. Habitat conditions, including, but not limited to, amount, distribution, and suitability;
3. Conservation measures that have been implemented to benefit the species, including measures taken for safeguarding or ex situ conservation;
4. Threat status and trends;
5. Other new information, data, or corrections, including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the list of Endangered and Threatened Plants, and improved analytical methods.
Please submit relevant information to M. Scott Wiggers by mail to the following address:
M. Scott Wiggers, Botanist
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Ecological Services
Coastal Resources Center
6005 Bayou Heron Rd
Moss Point, MS 39562
Office: (228) 475-0765 x104
This 5-year review also covers smooth coneflower, Cooley’s meadowrue, and the Carolina heelsplitter.