Monitoring Florida’s Rarest Plants: Golden Aster

Each November brings the start of the annual monitoring of Florida Goldenaster, Chrysopsis floridana. Florida Goldenaster is a narrow endemic aster that listed as endangered in 1986. It grows in open areas of sand in xeric habitats like scrub and scrubby flatwoods in West Central Florida.

Many of these areas have experienced rapid development or fire suppression, and the fate of the Goldenaster populations in the long term has been uncertain. In 2008, the Rare Plant Conservation Program began introducing new populations of Florida Goldenaster into protected sites, adding to introduction efforts begun by others in the late 1980s.

By 2019, half of all of the plants in the wild were in introduced populations. In order to determine the success of each introduction, annual fall monitoring has been performed. However, beginning in 2017, annual monitoring has also included a subset of natural populations along with the introduced populations. This provides comparative data to see if introduced populations are as resilient as natural populations, or if they are more so.

The annual monitoring changes in 2017 also included a partnership with Archbold Biological Station, which has continued into 2021. Archbold staffers Haley Dole, Elan Tran, and Sterling Herron flagging and measuring Florida goldenaster plants in an introduced population in Manatee County in November.

Monitoring of the Goldenaster populations is done by measuring plant survival, size, seedling recruitment, and reproductive output in experimental quads. Collating years of annual monitoring data will help us better understand the important demographic parameters of Florida Goldenaster such as lifespan, growth rate, recruitment and mortality rates, how it responds after fire, and how resilient it is to occasional stressors like drought or hurricanes. This information will go a long way towards learning how best to preserve the species into the future.