A Golden Opportunity for Goldenaster

In January 2021, the Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) began a project to investigate how successful seed sowing may be to create new populations of Florida goldenaster, Chrysopsis floridana. We have successfully created several new populations of Florida goldenaster in the past, but those were all done using propagated plants. If successful, creating new populations through sowing seeds would help reduce costs and provide a more rapid way of meeting federal recovery goals.

The seed sowing project is being done in an experimental way to gather additional data on what factors might influence seedling recruitment and survival of the goldenaster in the wild. For this experiment, four locations with suitable habitat were selected across this historical range of the goldenaster – one in Polk County, two in Manatee County, and one in Pinellas County. Each of the four sites are very different in what environmental conditions the plants might face. One site is on well-managed inland lands, a second site is in a new restoration area, a third site is along the intercoastal waterway, and a fourth site is in the dunes along the Gulf of Mexico. How many seedlings recruit among these different areas will help provide information about the resiliency of this species with different environmental conditions.

Another variable being used in this project is the use of two sets of seeds at each site. Each set of seeds represents different genotypes from different source populations. At each site, two adjacent 2-meter square plots were set up. One set of seeds was planted in each plot. This will allow us to observe whether certain genotypes might perform better in different environments.

The third and final variable in this experiment involves the timing of seed sowing. Seeds of this species naturally drop from the plants in December and January. Therefore, to mimic this timing, the first set of plots were sown in January. However, the start of the rainy season, when newly germinated seeds are thought to have the highest chance of survival, does not begin until May-June. Therefore, an identical set of plots will be set up at each site in May 2021.

Blog post was written by Cheryl Peterson, Rare Plant Conservation Manager at Bok Tower Gardens. Photos were provided by RPCP. The top photo shows Bok Tower Gardens Director of Horticulture Brendan Huggins lightly watering freshly sown seeds in a plot at one of the Manatee County sites.