Rare Plant Recovery
The Garden has been a leader in the field of plant conservation for over forty years. As our society witnesses a major loss of biodiversity, our Conservation Program staff seek to understand what drives these extinctions and to reintroduce rare plant species into habitats where they once occurred. We have experimented with the success of planting seeds and seedlings of Echinacea laevigata (Smooth coneflower) at our Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve. We are working with local land trusts to establish a population of Ptilimnium nodosum (Haperella) on the Deep and Rocky Rivers, where it naturally disappeared in the 1990s. We have also collaborated with the Army (Fort Bragg), the Army Corps of Engineers and Weymouth Woods State Recreation Area on the reintroduction of 4 rare Sandhills species including Lilium pyrophilum, Astragalus michauxii, Amorpha georgiana and Lysimachia asperulifolia.
As part of our ongoing work, our staff regularly monitor the health of rare plant populations. In partnership with the US Forest Service, we have been updating population counts for Symphyotrichum georgianum (Georgia aster) and Helianthus schweinitzii (Schweinitz’s sunflower). Our researchers also conduct demographic monitoring, measuring the size and reproductive success, for many of our reintroductions and on natural populations to analyze project success and to assess threats to populations.
The Garden also works to protect rare species by building a better understanding of their biology and ecology. We utilize our expertise as a garden to work on the propagation protocols and to explore the germination ecology of imperiled species, such as our work on the germination and propagation of Sandhills milkvetch and the role of fire in the germination of Georgia indigo bush. For one of the most unique and wonderful plants in the world, Venus flytrap, our staff have teamed up with researchers from the University of North Carolina to examine the species’ population genetics and with NC State University to find that Venus flytraps really don’t eat their pollinators.