Schwalbea americana

Conservation Status: Federally endangered; NatureServe G2G3, S2 (Imperiled)

Endangered: FL, GA, MD (maybe extirpated), NJ, NC, TN (possibly extirpated)

Special Concern: CT

Project leads: April Punsalam and Jeff Glitzenstein

Schwalbea americana L., American chaffseed is a federally endangered hemiparasitic herb that requires a high fire frequency return interval or fire surrogate to persist across the landscape. Historically this species occurred along the coast from Massachusetts to Louisiana and inland states Kentucky and Tennessee. Currently, this species occurs in seven states along the coast: New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana. Schwalbea has disappeared from ten of these states and has been declining where it does survive. Schwalbea was listed as an endangered species on September 29, 1992.

With good fire management, Schwalbea has a high potential for recovery. The South Carolina Botanical Garden is housing Schwalbea seedlings propagated by Jeff Glitzenstein. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently preparing a reintroduction plan for this species as part of its Five-Year Review.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile

american chaffseed fact sheet_SC_2017_v2

NatureServe Species Profile

USDA Plants Profile

Glitzenstein, Jeff, et al. Starting_a_new_population_of_Schwalbea americana on a Longleaf Pine Restoration Site in South Carolina.
Check out this chaffseed specimen from 1707! It was collected in Dorchester, SC, by Joseph Lord, whose herbarium collections are now in the Sloane Herbarium at the Natural History Museum, London and are online at Botanica Caroliniana.


April Punsalam:

Reintroduce Ballfield Site
Safeguard all of the extant SC Schwalbea sites at NC Botanical Garden
Visit several historic sites in Williamsburg County, South Carolina
Work with partners to restore Heineman Savanna

Jeff Glitzenstein:

1) Check all extant sites and make at least a qualitative assessment of the current status and threats.
2) Collect detailed population data on Lynchburg Savanna. Hopefully it will be burned soon if it has not already
3) Transport existing Scotswood plants to Riverbanks for safeguarding
4) Find a home for existing Lynchburg plants, perhaps at Moore Farm’s botanical garden near Lake City
5) Finish a draft ms on schwalbea vegetation relationships by end of March and submit the ms for publication soon thereafter
6) Collect additional data on small scale chaffseed nearest neighbors to further document the diversity of habitats
7) Lead a group SCPCA field trip to Williamsburg County sites in early May to demonstrate the range of habitats that chaffseed inhabits.
8) Collect seed for seed storage at NC Botanical Garden. I am assuming April’s use of the term safeguarding below refers to seed storage and not live plants. I would like to reserve some portion of this seed for further propagation work but April has not approved as of now
9) Work on documentation of chaffseed light regimes from canopy photos collected in 2016
10) A model purporting to predict the occurrence of chaffseed has been produced by Florida Natural Areas Inventory and Virginia Heritage Program. I intend to obtain and evaluate this model to determine if it has any practical use.


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