In April, staff of the Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) and St. Lucie County and nine volunteers from the local public participated in the final volunteer habitat improvement workday for the season at a Lakela’s Mint site in Fort Pierce.
Research over the years on Lakela’s Mint (Dicerandra immaculata var. immaculata) has shown that the plants and their native pollinators require sufficient open sand and canopy gaps in order to persist. Because the location of this site is in within an urban setting, it has not been possible for the land managers to implement prescribed burns to maintain the habitat. As a result, the habitat had become heavily overgrowth and populated with umerous invasive species. The Lakela’s Mints were rapidly disappearing and modelling showed the species could disappear within just a few years if nothing was done to improve its habitat.
Through funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the RPCP has partnered with St. Lucie County to lead monthly habitat improvement workdays. During these workdays, which took place from October 2022 through April 2023, staff and local volunteers remove invasives, cut and herbicide-treat shrub overgrowth, hand-remove the parasitic love-vine, and pull debris from the site. The work is done in a carefully and by hand, in order to avoid ground disturbance and minimize harm to existing plants.
The Lakela’s Mint population has rebounded nicely because of these improvements to its habitat, with plants growing larger and producing more flowers, and a good crop of new seedlings emerging. The improved size and health of the population means it can better be self-sustaining and be more resilient through the natural environmental impacts such as storms and drought.
In lieu of prescribed burns, regular efforts to maintain healthy habitat will be necessary to preserve this species in the wild.
Article was written by Cheryl Peterson, Conservation Program Manager at Bok Tower Gardens.