Preserving Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species

Seven hundred and fifty-one of Georgia’s native plant species are of “special concern” on the State Heritage List. Some are critically endangered with no protection by law, even on state or federal land. The populations are rapidly dwindling and could very well go extinct if conservation actions do not quickly occur. We are working to ensure conservation of Georgia’s imperiled plant diversity. You can help us!

At the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, our core mission is to inspire people to value plants. We do this for all the reasons plants are important; for the survival of other species, for the potential of medicines, for the support of foods, for the sake of clean water, for the production of air, for the beauty they provide by simply existing. We are focused on “high priority species” that are at risk of extinction and in most critical need of conservation actions. We are a research, education and plant production center at the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia, nestled between the prairie, floodplain and forest natural areas. With 2.5 acres of fenced space, we propagate native Georgia plants for habitat restoration, introduction to the gardening community, and endangered species recovery. We also promote the incorporation of Georgia natives into garden displays and right-of-way restoration projects to enhance local biodiversity that contributes to food security, health, emotional well-being and quality of life.

 

You Can Preserve Georgia’s Native Plants

“Preserving Georgia’s native plant species is the gift that we leave to future generations of Georgians.”
— Mimsie Lanier

The Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies has secure collections of ten high priority native plant species, and with your help we can ensure that they are preserved for future generations. A gift of $25,000 to the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies will support conservation efforts for your sponsored plant as well as increase our capacity to preserve and protect other endangered species. You’ll become a valued partner in our preservation efforts. Each year we will report to you the progress made on your species, as well as other native plants in Georgia. Your support helps us to strengthen a conservation network across the state that benefits not only the ten species profiled in this effort, but all of Georgia’s plant species diversity. As a very special thank you, the first ten Preservation Sponsors will receive an original painting of their species commissioned in their name.

For a limited time, a donor has offered to match the first ten $25,000 Preservation Sponsors —immediately doubling the impact! Won’t you please consider joining us in preserving Georgia’s native species before it’s too late?

Georgia Aster
Symphyotrichum georgianum

About: Georgia Aster is a threatened perennial with large flower heads marked by dark purple rays encircling white to lavender disk flowers. It is found in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, but with fewer than 15 populations in each. It is no longer found in Florida.

Why rare: Use of herbicides, highway construction, fire suppression, and residential and industrial development destroys or alters the habitat.

Details: It grows in woodlands or piedmont prairies dominated by native plants, with acidic soils that vary from sand to heavy clay. It needs plenty of light – and can compete well for resources until it begins to get shaded out by woody plants.

How you can help: Sponsor Georgia Aster to help increase numbers and chance of survival. Most of the remaining populations are adjacent to roads, railroads, utility rights of way and other openings where land management mimics natural disturbance regimes. At these locations, it is vulnerable to accidental destruction from herbicide application, road shoulder grading, and other maintenance activities, though careful planning can prevent these impacts.

Sponsored
Dwarf Sumac
Rhus michauxii

About: Dwarf Sumac is an endangered shrub with erect stems, sharply toothed leaves and flowers with 4 – 5 tiny, greenish-yellow petals in a dense, tightly branched cluster. It produces tiny dark red fruit in dense clusters. Found in only a few populations in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Why rare: Since first discovered, half of all known locations have been lost. The habitat is destroyed for conversion to development and pine plantations, and by clear-cutting and herbicide use. Female and male flowers are on separate plants, making pollination difficult because plants may be separated at great distances.

Details: Dwarf Sumac thrives in dry, open, rocky, or sandy woodlands over bedrock with high levels of calcium, magnesium, or iron. It is often found on ridges and river bluffs.

How you can help: Sponsor the Dwarf Sumac to help increase numbers and chance of survival. It was on brink of extinction in Georgia because the male plants were separated from the females by more than 70 miles. In a coordinated restoration effort six years ago, partners in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance managed the habitat and brought together male and female plants on conservation land. The effort is paying off, but the site must be continually monitored and maintained.

Found in: Elbert and Rockdale counties.
Hairy Rattleweed
Baptisia arachnifera

About: Hairy Rattleweed is an endangered plant now only found in two counties in Georgia and nowhere else in the world. It is a pine flatwood perennial and is named for the white, cobwebby hairs that cover the stems.

Why rare: Most of the pine flatwoods habitats that support Hairy Rattleweed have been converted to pine plantations. As the pines mature, they block sunlight from reaching the ground, which is needed for flowering.

Details: Hairy Rattleweed has an extensive root system that helps it survive fire, which once was a frequent occurrence in pine flatwoods. Fire is needed to keep down competition from shrubs, which will shade the plant out. It is a “tumbleweed” type of plant – seeds are dispersed when stems break off at ground level and are blown, tumbleweed-style, across the ground.

How you can help: Sponsor Hairy Rattleweed to help increase numbers and chance of survival. Only 13 populations have been seen in the last 20 years. Only one of these is protected on conservation land.

Found in: Brantley and Wayne counties.

 

 

Smooth Coneflower
Echinacea laevigata

About: Smooth Coneflower is an endangered plant now only found in one county in Georgia and in scattered locations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. It is a prairie plant and has a smooth stem and drooping pink petals.

Why rare: Habitat was destroyed when it was converted to pine plantations, residential and commercial developments, utility and highway rights-of-way, and killed off by herbicide and poaching. The young plants are not strong competitors and are easily overwhelmed by aggressive plants.

Details: It grows in grassy, sunny openings and rocky glades within mixed pine-hardwood forests and sunny roadside and utility rights-of-way. Smooth Coneflower is pollinated by butterflies, moths, beetles, bees and wasps. It needs a sunny habitat to thrive.

How you can help: Sponsor the Smooth Coneflower to help increase numbers and chance of survival. It’s now found in only 10 sites in Stephens County, four of those are new sites where it was reintroduced by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. With your help, we can ensure it continues to survive and thrive in Georgia.

Pond Berry
Lindera melissifolia

About: Pond Berry is an endangered shrub found on the coastal plain of Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas. It grows up to six feet tall and form dense thickets around the edges of natural ponds and limesinks.

Why rare: It produces female flowers and male flowers on separate plants and colonies of either can be widely separated by many miles, leading to lack of pollination. Ditching, draining, filling in wetlands, and feral hogs destroy the habitat.

Details: It is the larval host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterfly (Papilia troilus), which lays its eggs on the lower surface of the leaves; when the eggs hatch, when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat my leaves before forming a cocoon.

How you can help: Sponsor the Pond Berry to help increase numbers and chance of survival. About 20 populations are known, but less than half are protected on conservation land. Most of Georgia’s colonies have only male plants, which means they cannot set fruit or produce seed.

Found in: Baker, Calhoun, Effingham, Emanuel, Jenkins, Miller, Taylor, Wheeler and Worth counties.

 

Georgia Rockcress
Arabis georgiana

About: Georgia Rockcress is a threatened perennial found along rocky slopes in Georgia and Alabama. Its delicate, erect stems hold flowers with four white petals.

Why rare: It grows in thin, rocky soils that discourage many other native plants, but it is not a strong competitor. Aggressive exotic plants, such as Japanese Honeysuckle and Chinese Privet, are invading the habitat and competing for sun and nutrients. Clearing and quarrying of rocky bluffs, hardwood slopes, and riverbanks destroys habitat.

Details: It thrives in hardwood forests on slopes above streams; sandy, recently eroded riverbanks and is pollinated by bees, moths, and butterflies.

How you can help: Sponsor Georgia Rockcress to help increase numbers and chance of survival. Only 28 populations are known in Georgia and Alabama, seven of which are in Georgia.

Found in: Chattachoochee, Clay, Floyd, Gordon, Harris and Muscogee counties.
Royal Catchfly
Silene regia

About: Royal Catchfly is an endangered perennial with erect, unbranched, sticky-hairy stems and flowers in an open cluster at the top of the stem. Each flower has five bright red petals that are pointed or slightly toothed at the tip. Though found throughout the southeast and midwest, it is rare throughout its range.

Why rare: The habitat is threatened by clearing and conversion to pine plantations, pasture, and developments. It is also harmed by the use of herbicides in rights-of-way. Fires that benefit the habitat for Royal Catchfly also support this species at every life stage, promoting growth, survival of individual plants, and reproduction. But fire suppression and the resulting encroachment by woody species is limiting growth.

Details: Found in limestone cedar glades, rocky openings in woodlands over basic soils, Coosa Valley prairies, and rights-of-way through these habitats. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds.

How you can help: Sponsor Royal Catchfly to help increase numbers and chance of survival. Only one population Georgia, in Dade County, is known and it is not protected on public land.

Found only in Dade County.
Canby’s Dropwort
Oxypolis canbyi

About: Canby’s Dropwort is an endangered perennial with slender, erect stems up to 5 feet tall. The flowers are in flat-topped clusters at the top of the stems, with many tiny white, five-petaled flowers.

Why rare: It is losing habitat due to conversion to pine plantations and agriculture by ditching, draining, and destroying wetlands. Lowering of water table by ground water withdrawal also reduces the habitat.

Details: Found in the Coastal Plain of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware in cypress ponds and wet savannas. Black swallowtail butterflies use stems to lay their eggs and their larvae (caterpillars) eat the stems and leaves before forming cocoons.

How you can help: Sponsor Canby’s Dropwort to help increase numbers and chance of survival. About 15 populations have been seen in the last 17 years in Georgia, and only six occur on conservation lands.

Found in: Burke, Dooly, Jenkins, Lee and Screven counties.

Georgia Trillium
Trillium georgianum

About: Georgia Trillium is an endangered perennial herb with erect stems and 3 petaled white flowers with wavy edges. It is a newly identified species found only in Northeast Georgia.

Why rare: The habitat is destroyed by logging and clearing in floodplain forests through ditching, draining, and filling in floodplains. It is also in competition from exotic pest plants for habitat space.

Details: It thrives in seasonally wet swamps with calcium-rich, clay soils. It takes 5 – 7 years to produce the first flowering stalk. Once mature, it can be very long- lived, perhaps living hundreds of years, since the rhizome continues to lengthen and produce shoots on one end, while the other end decays.

How you can help: Sponsor Georgia Trillium to help increase numbers and chance of survival. There is only one known natural population in Georgia in Whitfield County. It was re-introduced to a nature preserve in Floyd County, but deer are making it challenging for it to thrive.

Sponsored
Only naturally occurring population in Whitfield County. It was re-introduced to Floyd County.
Sandhill Rosemary
Ceratiola ericoides

About: Sandhill Rosemary is a threatened plant found sparsely in 11 counties in Georgia and throughout the southeast. It is an evergreen shrub with leaves that smell of rosemary when crushed, or during hot weather smell of honey.

Why rare: There is threat of conversion to pine plantations and pastures in the extremely dry sandhills and sand ridges along the east sides fo serval coastal plain rivers where the sandhill rosemary grows.

Details: This plant only grows in large open patches of bare sand. The flowers are wind pollinated and the fruits are eaten by ants, mice and birds.

How you can help: Sponsor the Sandhill Rosemary to help increase numbers and chance of survival. There are about 20 populations in the state of Georgia. Several occur on the state-owned Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area, but most are on private property and have no legal protection.

Sponsored
Found in: Bryan, Candler, Charlton, Emanuel, Glynn, Richmond, Tattnall, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties.