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Georgia Wild E-Newsletter

Red Top Mountain high: Georgia aster found at park

Good news for the Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), a candidate for the federally threatened list. Several large populations of the rare plant were found in September at Red Top Mountain State Park and on adjacent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property near Cartersville.

The colorful, fall-blooming plant has eye-catching deep purple flowers with white centers.

"I'd never had the chance to see this plant blooming in the wild. It is gorgeous -- no other flower has such a distinguishing deep velvet purple color," said Lisa Kruse, a DNR Wildlife Resources Division botanist.

One of the populations is estimated to have more than 200 stems. The discovery, made by Terrell Stokes of the corps, with help from Janice Granai and Kelvin Richey at Red Top Mountain State Park, means current forest management practices including deer hunting and prescribed fire are working.

The find is the first on record for Georgia aster in Bartow County. The species is recovering steadily at nearby Picketts Mill Historic Site, where prescribed fire has been used to restore open prairie habitat. Georgia asters are found with other significant species that serve as indicators of the uncommon native habitat. Little bluestem, blazing star, tick-trefoil, golden aster and silver plume grass are some examples.

The DNR and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance are working to help restore Georgia aster to its native habitat. The discovery of these populations is important because the plants are in their natural habitat on state lands, making them easier to protect and manage for the long term. Georgia aster requires open, grassy meadow habitats, so most remnant populations persist along roadsides or in utility right of ways.

"These occurrences at our state parks will give many other folks the chance to see these beauties," Kruse said.

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