Keeping Up with Conversation: Protecting Florida Goldenaster

(This photo shows a newly transplanted seedling at the end of an irrigation injector line and a blue tag with its number designation.)

Through funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) collected seeds of the endangered Florida Goldenaster, Chrysopsis floridana, from several populations in January, and set up germination trials from February through April. The germination trials included the fresh seeds along with older accessions in the National Collection to help gather important data on seed longevity across storage temperatures, and natural variation in seed viability among populations.

Seedlings from the trials were grown throughout May and June, and in July, each plant was assigned a number tag that associated the plant number to the collection site, harvest year, and seed storage temperature. In July, 350 of the prepared seedlings were used to create a new population. In advance of the population introduction, FDEP and RPCP staff set up irrigation lines and tested the lines to ensure there were no leaks and each injector attached to the lines were delivering water. Several days later, the plants were transplanted at the end of each injector. Plants were watered in well while each injector was double-checked for proper functioning. FDEP staff committed to irrigating the plants 2-3x/week unless sufficient rainfall was recorded the day prior.

The FDEP reports that the plants continue to do well. A high survival rate is expected, and all or most of the plants are expected to produce flowers in November. The RPCP will return in December 2022 to record the percentage of plant flowering and estimate the seed production (reproductive output) of the plants. Seeds should be produced and be dispersed throughout this new population in January, with new seedlings emerging throughout the spring. The RPCP will return again in November 2023 to count the number of new seedlings which emerged and survived over the previous year, and which may themselves flower and produce seeds for the next generation. In this way, the success of the population introduction efforts will be assessed. Establishing a robust, self-sustaining population of this species on protect lands will greatly help towards the recovery of this endangered species.

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