Hairy Rattleweed is an endangered plant now only found in two counties in Georgia, Brantley and Wayne, and nowhere else in the world. It is a pine flatwood perennial and is named for the white, cobwebby hairs that cover the stems.
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 and without sunlight Hairy Rattleweed cannot flower and reproduce.
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 also shade out the plant. 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.
Only 13 populations of Hairy Rattleweed have been seen in the last 20 years and only one of these is protected on conservation land.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is growing this plant and working to ensure its survival. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.