Keeping Up with Conservation: Ocklawaha Clasping Warea Project

As part of an ongoing partnership with Duke Energy, Bok Tower Gardens’ Rare Plant Conservation Program has committed a portion of the conservation efforts for Clasping warea, Warea amplexifolia, towards an outreach program meant for not only the preservation of the remaining population’s genetic integrity, but also for the involvement of the area’s residents. This new outreach program, named the Ocklawaha Plant Preservation Network, was developed to help educate residents about the Clasping warea population in their neighborhood, and establish a local network of residents who want to maintain some Clasping warea in their yards to help preserve the species.

Developing the Plant Preservation Network was made possible through the partnership with Duke Energy, by grant funding that has allowed surveys and seed collection over several years, and through the permission of the many generous private landowners who allowed seed collection from their property. Duke Energy prepared the informational flyers to distribute to Ocklawaha residents, and Bok Tower Gardens volunteers and staff prepared the educational mailers and seed collection permission request packets that reached the 1,216 residents and over 150 landowners of undeveloped lots. This initiative has been met with great positive response from many Ocklawaha landowners and residents who, have been eager to help preserve Clasping warea.

As a result, Rare Plant Conservation Program staff have been working with these landowners to collect seeds from properties where the species currently exists, and working with residents to set aside a small plot on their property where the species does not yet exist. In creating these newly locations for Clasping warea in their own backyards, Ocklawaha residents will be helping to create a “plant corridor” throughout this neighborhood where the species is fast disappearing due to housing development. This new corridor will support pollinators by providing nectar, and will help maintain the genetic diversity of the Clasping warea population by facilitating transport of pollen by the pollinators across the population.

To date, 85 seed collection bags have been placed on plants in nine different parcels, and dozens of Ocklawaha residents have signed up to plant Clasping warea in their yards. The seed collection bags will be retrieved in December, when the seeds are expected to be fully ripe and dehisced. The expected planting date for residents is in May, when hundreds of plants for the project will have been propagated in the greenhouse at Bok Tower Gardens. An optional yard sign is currently being prepared, which will be distributed for residents to proudly display near their new planting site and to further help facilitate opportunities for education and engagement within the community.

Based on the positive response of the community to this new initiative, as well as its potential impacts for species conservation and environmental education, the Rare Plant Conservation Program looks forward to opportunities for employing the Plant Preservation Network outreach model in different regions throughout the state for the benefit of more of Florida’s endangered species and a wider community outreach.

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

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