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Rare Plant Surveys on Public and Private Lands

Although public lands and selected private preserves and holdings protect the habitat of many rare plant populations, numerous sites have not received adequate surveys. Inventories are important to locate new populations so their habitats can be protected. Surveys also are needed to ensure that proposed development projects such as roads, trails or buildings on public lands do not inadvertently harm rare species.

Nongame Conservation Section botanists continue to explore state lands, with a focus on newly acquired properties. Surveys are conducted throughout the state to identify and inventory locations of rare plants and provide guidance on appropriate management activities

Staff partnered with the Atlanta Botanical Garden in a project to locate populations of the rarer native terrestrial orchids. New sites for purple-fringed orchids and the rediscovery of a robust population of the Appalachian small spreading pogonia were verified on Chattahoochee National Forest. Seeds were collected and placed in tissue culture to perfect propagation techniques.

Several other orchids are being studied, including species representing significant new discoveries from private lands. Chapman’s orange-fringed orchid and smooth-lipped Eulophia were found in Camden County, and small white-fringed orchid was documented from Marion County. Three-birds orchid was verified at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site. A large stand of fringeless purple orchids was documented on Conasauga River Natural Area.

Working with volunteers from the Georgia Botanical Society, Nongame Conservation Section staff documented some 450 vascular plants from Pickett’s Mill. Insight on management of historic old-field sites with remnant savanna or prairie-like vegetation is another result of intensive plant surveys. Additional examples of montane longleaf pine forest and piedmont granite outcrops were verified from Chattahoochee Bend State Park.

Several discoveries of populations of federally listed plants were made during 2008-2009. Pond spicebush was found on Mayhaw WMA in Miller County. Relict trillium was found on private property in Wilkinson County. Additional sites for Tennessee yellow-eyed grass (above, left) were found in Bartow and Floyd counties. Remarkably, 47 sites representing nine population centers of American chaffseed were documented in a detailed survey throughout Georgia’s wiregrass country. At least 40 of these sites were discoveries linked to increased use of prescribed burning on large quail plantations and DNR lands, particularly Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area in Colquitt County. Visits to all occurrences of Canby’s dropwort were completed to confirm that 11 of 22 known occurrences are extant, with seven in stable or vigorous condition.

Safeguarding efforts for Georgia’s rarest flora included planting Carolina hemlocks at Tallulah Gorge, augmenting the Kentucky ladyslipper population near the Oconee River in central Georgia, planting additional Georgia rockcress near Goat Rock Dam, and establishing two sites for relict trillium rescued from a construction site on Fort Benning.

Plant species new to Georgia continue to be documented. Florida milkvine was observed in a pristine, beech-magnolia-spruce pine forest in Thomas County. Bartram’s rose gentian was observed in Charlton County. Swamp postGeorgia plume oak was collected in Camden and Charlton counties in a unique willow oak wetland discovered during the ongoing coastal vegetation survey. A globally rare grass, the Cumberland sandreed, was verified on a boulder gravel bar on the Lula Lake Preserve atop Lookout Mountain. Another state record found in

2010 was grassleaf yellow loosestrife from the Coosa Valley prairies.

Monitoring of rare plants in response to management is another important focus. Trial habitat improvements for Canby’s dropwort habitat at Big Dukes Pond Natural Area were completed and a monitoring protocol implemented to track changes in the plant population and its habitat. Monitoring of the flowering and fruiting of Georgia plume (below), for which lack of reproduction is a threat to the species survival, was implemented at Big Hammock Natural Area in burned and unburned habitats.

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