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Walking in a Warea Wonderland

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013 in News

It’s October, and the sandhill habitat of central Florida is so abundant with flowers that it seems to supply an unlimited source of pollen and nectar for hundreds of species of butterflies, wasps and bees. Yet in this flora wonderland, the delicate lavender-pink Clasping Warea was nearly lost.

Clasping Warea (Warea amplexifolia) is an annual that grows only in the sandhill habitat.  Few populations are protected and most are found on private properties, gradually disappearing due to development.

One of the last known populations is near Bok Tower Gardens at Mountain Lake Estates, a residential community built in the 1920’s.  Here, a natural sandhill habitat boasts the only remaining population of Clasping Warea in Polk County, not seen at Mountain Lake since 1997. Years of fire suppression had all but eliminated the sandy openings and canopy gaps required by this and other sandhill species.

Then after an absence of 13 years, ten plants were observed in 2010. This re-emergence is attributed to the cool, rainy conditions of winter 2009 followed by a wet spring, both ideal for the germination and growth of the species.

To help re-establish a strong population, a new partnership was forged between Mountain Lake Estates, The Nature Conservancy, and Bok Tower Gardens’ Rare Plant Conservation Program.

Seeds were collected from all ten plants to help generate new seedlings, and a prescribed burn at the site in July 2011 helped restore the habitat.  Following the burn, 189 seedlings were planted, and within a month formed flowers, then seeds.

In May 2012, 176 additional seedlings and 300 seeds were introduced, and more will be added in 2013 and beyond, eventually recreating the Warea Wonderland that once existed at Mountain Lake.