Keeping Up With Conservation: Rescuing Florida’s Rarest Plants

Several times a year, the Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) gets notified by landowners, developers, governmental agencies, or ecological service contractors about upcoming construction on habitats that contain rare plant populations. One of the main missions of the RPCP is to preserve the genetic diversity remaining in Florida’ rare plant species, and when a population is lost, that genetic material can never be recovered.

Therefore, it is important to treat each plant rescue opportunity as a priority, especially because developers are often under a strict timeline and the window to rescue the genetic diversity of a population that will be destroyed can be short. In June, the RPCP coordinated with staff from the Florida Department of Transportation and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. for the rescue of Scrub Lupine (Lupinus aridorum), Scrub Morningglory (Bonamia grandiflora), Nodding Pinweed (Lechea cernua), and Papery Whitlow-wort (Paronychia chartacea ssp. chartacea) from remnant scrub habitat in Orange County along I-4 that will soon be replaced with retention ponds, sod, asphalt, and new businesses.

Because Scrub lupine cannot be successfully transplanted as whole plants, all available ripe seeds were collected. Whole plants of the other four species, as well as other natives such as Adam’s Needle (Yucca filamentosa) and Sand Spikemoss (Selaginella arenicola) were carefully dug up and placed into pots. Once back at the greenhouse at Bok Tower Gardens, the plants were repotted using a mixture of native sand from the site and a commercial potting mix, and placed under 50% shade cloth to acclimatize.

Some of the rescued plants and seeds will be preserved in the National Collection at Bok Tower Gardens, and some will be transplanted into a scrub restoration site in a protected park near the rescue site in Orange County.

Article was written by Cheryl Peterson, Conservation Program Manager at Bok Tower Gardens.