June 2018 News

Save Plants

CENTER FOR PLANT CONSERVATION

Save Plants

CENTER FOR PLANT CONSERVATION

June 2018 Newsletter

North America is a wonderfully diverse continent more often than not known for its shimmering beaches and epic mountains. But through the great expanse of this continent lies the remnants of one of the most remarkable habitats on Earth — the North American prairie. Here, the plants are adapted to modest rain, cool winters, and seemingly ever-present wind. Although outwardly sparse, with few trees and little else to differentiate it, the soil here is fertile and the grasses, wildflowers, and diversity of wildlife belie this seemingly barren landscape.

Sadly, the prairies of the United States are some of the rarest ecosystems on Earth. Due to topography and soil conditions, prairies make for excellent farming as well as urban development. Less than 1 percent of intact native habitat remains as a result, with many species of prairie plants now facing extinction. This month’s issue of SavePlants features the efforts of several Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) Participating Institutions focused on saving rare prairie plants. Read on to learn about these good works and to understand more about the native diversity that characterizes the heartland of North America.

The Morton Arboretum

(Provided by Cathy Bechtoldt and Andrew Hipp)

Experimental Prairie

Ecological restoration is a critical component of conservation. Unfortunately, restored sites often fall short of common restoration goals such as maintenance of biodiversity over time, increased ecosystem function, and resistance to invasion by exotic weeds. The goal of this project is to test whether considering phylogenetic diversity, a measure of biodiversity that takes into account evolutionary history, can advance the ability to restore diverse, highly functional, resilient communities. In this project, they are installing two experimental prairies, one at The Morton Arboretum and one at Prairie Moon Nursery (Winona, Minn.); analyzing existing restorations as well as remnant prairies; and collaborating with colleagues at Chicago Botanic Garden, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Minnesota to investigate the effects of planted species diversity on restoration outcomes and function of restorations.

PHOTO: Planting plugs. Approximately 18,000 plugs were planted in August 2016 by 5 staff, a graduate student, and more than 40 volunteers.

The Morton Arboretum

(Provided by Cathy Bechtoldt and Andrew Hipp)

Experimental Prairie

Ecological restoration is a critical component of conservation. Unfortunately, restored sites often fall short of common restoration goals such as maintenance of biodiversity over time, increased ecosystem function, and resistance to invasion by exotic weeds. The goal of this project is to test whether considering phylogenetic diversity, a measure of biodiversity that takes into account evolutionary history, can advance the ability to restore diverse, highly functional, resilient communities. In this project, they are installing two experimental prairies, one at The Morton Arboretum and one at Prairie Moon Nursery (Winona, Minn.); analyzing existing restorations as well as remnant prairies; and collaborating with colleagues at Chicago Botanic Garden, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Minnesota to investigate the effects of planted species diversity on restoration outcomes and function of restorations.

PHOTO: Planting plugs. Approximately 18,000 plugs were planted in August 2016 by 5 staff, a graduate student, and more than 40 volunteers.

As part of a five-year National Science Foundation grant, The Morton Arboretum Plant Systematics Lab designed and installed an experimental prairie in 2016 measuring about a 3/4-acre. The prairie is designed to investigate the effects of phylogenetic, or evolutionary, and functional diversity of plants installed in prairie restorations on the restoration outcomes. There are 127 species included in the experiment, planted in 144 treatment plots and 254 monocultures.

Outcomes investigated include:

  • Productivity (estimated by measuring biomass and spectral vegetation indices)
  • Maintenance of biodiversity
  • Resilience to interannual drought
  • Resistance to invasion
  • Effects on soil microbial diversity

The experiment endeavors to quantify the degree that the diversity and identity of what is planted in restorations can increase the probability of restoration success as well as decrease maintenance costs over time. The experiment is currently being utilized by researchers at The Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Gardens, University of Minnesota, and Northern Illinois University.

There is also collaboration between PI Andrew Hipp and colleagues at Downers Grove North High School in Illinois where approximately 100 to 120 Advanced Placement biology students gain experience in prairie ecology and experimental design.

PHOTO: Organizing plugs for shipment, at Pizzo and Associates. Every plot in the experiment was designed precisely, with random locations identified prior to any plants going into the ground. Each of the 72 treatment plots of 15 species and 254 monoculture plots was organized by flat prior to shipping. The plant producers, Pizzo and Associates, LLC, were fantastic collaborators on this, allowing our group space to work during the several weeks leading up to shipment and taking a long-term interest in all aspects of the experiment.

As part of a five-year National Science Foundation grant, The Morton Arboretum Plant Systematics Lab designed and installed an experimental prairie in 2016 measuring about a 3/4-acre. The prairie is designed to investigate the effects of phylogenetic, or evolutionary, and functional diversity of plants installed in prairie restorations on the restoration outcomes. There are 127 species included in the experiment, planted in 144 treatment plots and 254 monocultures.

Outcomes investigated include:

  • Productivity (estimated by measuring biomass and spectral vegetation indices)
  • Maintenance of biodiversity
  • Resilience to interannual drought
  • Resistance to invasion
  • Effects on soil microbial diversity

The experiment endeavors to quantify the degree that the diversity and identity of what is planted in restorations can increase the probability of restoration success as well as decrease maintenance costs over time. The experiment is currently being utilized by researchers at The Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Gardens, University of Minnesota, and Northern Illinois University.

There is also collaboration between PI Andrew Hipp and colleagues at Downers Grove North High School in Illinois where approximately 100 to 120 Advanced Placement biology students gain experience in prairie ecology and experimental design.

PHOTO: Organizing plugs for shipment, at Pizzo and Associates. Every plot in the experiment was designed precisely, with random locations identified prior to any plants going into the ground. Each of the 72 treatment plots of 15 species and 254 monoculture plots was organized by flat prior to shipping. The plant producers, Pizzo and Associates, LLC, were fantastic collaborators on this, allowing our group space to work during the several weeks leading up to shipment and taking a long-term interest in all aspects of the experiment.

High School students gathering trait data in the experiment. The Morton Arboretum Herbarium and Systematics Laboratory have been collaborating with the AP Biology program at nearby Downers Grove North High School for approximately 6 years. In the past three years, our work with them has been focused on our prairie experiment and beginning in 2017, the students’ curriculum involves a field trip to the prairie to gather data on plant traits, by species. Students then work with the PI on this experiment, Dr. Andrew Hipp, and a postdoc on the project, Dr. Rebecca Barak, during a semester-long inquiry into prairie ecology and the practice of conducting ecological research. The semester culminates in group projects in which the students generate and test hypotheses, then present their work in a poster session. Through this work, more than 650 students have gained training in plant biodiversity science, and each of the past three years, two of these students have been hired to work in the Systematics Laboratory during the summer as research interns.

PHOTO: The prairie experiment viewed from overhead. Each plot is 2m x 2m, and the site is approximately 0.75 acre in extent.

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (MLA)

(Provided by David Remucal)

The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum safeguards nine species in the CPC National Collection. Three of these species, Cypripedium candidum, Platanthera praeclara, and Besseya bullii, are prairie species. The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has had great success growing the Cypripedium, an orchid, and will be starting a population at the Arboretum as an experiment to try and introduce this wet meadow orchid to a reconstructed landscape. They are also in the process of producing hundreds of seedlings of this species for use in a restoration project in eastern Wisconsin.

For the Platanthera, another orchid, the biggest challenges are figuring out how to best bank the seed, how to propagate large amounts of the plant, and how to establish seedlings in natural or reconstructed landscapes. The Arboretum is working on these challenges.

For the Besseya, they are nearing completion of acceptable genetic/geographic coverage of the species for Minnesota. Currently, they are beginning to turn their attention to getting seed from other states in its range. They appear to have overcome an apparent hump in germination testing for this species and have started to offer seedlings to donor locations for population augmentation (no takers yet, but folks are at least talking about the possibilities which is, in actuality, what they really want at this point). They will be establishing their own population of Besseya at the arboretum this fall, once everything has gone dormant, as well as creating safeguard beds for several of the donor populations.

For all of these species, as they are established in their prairie (or prairie display beds), the next steps are to develop interpretations for visitors to emphasize the arboretum’s work on preserving some of the prairie gems in the state as first real opportunities to present the public with results of some of its conservation work.

PHOTO: Cypripedium candidum

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (MLA)

(Provided by David Remucal)

The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum safeguards nine species in the CPC National Collection. Three of these species, Cypripedium candidum, Platanthera praeclara, and Besseya bullii, are prairie species. The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has had great success growing the Cypripedium, an orchid, and will be starting a population at the Arboretum as an experiment to try and introduce this wet meadow orchid to a reconstructed landscape. They are also in the process of producing hundreds of seedlings of this species for use in a restoration project in eastern Wisconsin.

For the Platanthera, another orchid, the biggest challenges are figuring out how to best bank the seed, how to propagate large amounts of the plant, and how to establish seedlings in natural or reconstructed landscapes. The Arboretum is working on these challenges.

For the Besseya, they are nearing completion of acceptable genetic/geographic coverage of the species for Minnesota. Currently, they are beginning to turn their attention to getting seed from other states in its range. They appear to have overcome an apparent hump in germination testing for this species and have started to offer seedlings to donor locations for population augmentation (no takers yet, but folks are at least talking about the possibilities which is, in actuality, what they really want at this point). They will be establishing their own population of Besseya at the arboretum this fall, once everything has gone dormant, as well as creating safeguard beds for several of the donor populations.

For all of these species, as they are established in their prairie (or prairie display beds), the next steps are to develop interpretations for visitors to emphasize the arboretum’s work on preserving some of the prairie gems in the state as first real opportunities to present the public with results of some of its conservation work.

PHOTO: Cypripedium candidum

The Arnoglossum plantagineum translocation project: this is not a CPC species, but it is a state listed species (the plant is rare in Minnesota because it is on the edge of its range). It is a wet/mesic prairie species that may be able to tolerate drier sites. The largest population in Minnesota was slated to be destroyed as part of a permit for a fracking sand mine granted in late 2014/early 2015. Working with the state Department of Natural Resources, this has been the first deliberate translocation project the state has really endorsed/attempted.

Over the course of a few seasons, they have collected seed and dug up plants that were either transplanted to protected donor sites immediately or brought back to the arboretum for managed care. A population was started at the arboretum’s prairie, which is thriving, and they’ll be supplementing it to try and establish a self-sustaining population. They will also be creating a safeguard bed to be used for seed amplification and production if needed in the future.

The two other protected sites have had varying degrees of survivorship, which appears highly dependent on how quickly pocket gophers find the root systems of the plants. Recently, a new population with what seems to be a single individual was discovered at one of the protected sites and they are looking at trying to supplement and amplify that population while maintaining its genetic integrity as much as possible, which is an interesting problem. Finally using the successes and failures from the three extant populations, they have identified a fourth site to accept the remains of the salvaged plants. This has been a learning process for all involved and may be turning into the first step towards creating a state-wide conservation network/system similar to the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance or the New England Plant Conservation Program.

PHOTO: left: Year old seedlings – Cypripedium candidum; top right: Seedlings-Cypripedium candidum; bottom-right: Digging up Arnoglossum plantagineum – translocation project.

Lauritzen Botanic Gardens

(Provided by Jim Locklear)

Lauritzen Gardens has focused on the Central Grassland of North America and has been engaged in prairie work on several fronts. Three current projects are: Endemic Plants of the Central Grassland of North America, Sandsage Prairie Initiative, and Blowout Penstemon Seed Banking Project.

Endemic Plants of the Central Grassland of North America

Knowledge of the endemic plants of a region is an important element in understanding the biological diversity of that region and in prioritizing areas for conservation action. Research by Lauritzen Gardens has identified 382 plants with geographic distributions that are mostly limited to the Central Grassland . Of these endemic and uniquely grassland plants, 124 or 33 percent are at risk of extinction. A paper documenting the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of these plants was published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in 2017. You can read the article here.

PHOTO: Sandsage Perkins

Lauritzen Botanic Gardens

(Provided by Jim Locklear)

Lauritzen Gardens has focused on the Central Grassland of North America and has been engaged in prairie work on several fronts. Three current projects are: Endemic Plants of the Central Grassland of North America, Sandsage Prairie Initiative, and Blowout Penstemon Seed Banking Project.

Endemic Plants of the Central Grassland of North America

Knowledge of the endemic plants of a region is an important element in understanding the biological diversity of that region and in prioritizing areas for conservation action. Research by Lauritzen Gardens has identified 382 plants with geographic distributions that are mostly limited to the Central Grassland . Of these endemic and uniquely grassland plants, 124 or 33 percent are at risk of extinction. A paper documenting the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of these plants was published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in 2017. You can read the article here.

PHOTO: Sandsage Perkins

Arnoglossum plantagineum

Arnoglossum plantagineum

Blowout penstemon

Sandsage Prairie Initiative

Sandsage prairie is a steppe community in which the shrub sand sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia) is a dominant element. This community type is found in sandy habitat throughout a large part of the western Great Plains. Sandsage prairie is important for many species of grassland birds but is declining in both quality and quantity, and it has been identified as a conservation priority in the state wildlife action plans of Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas. Lauritzen Gardens conducted a rare-plant survey of Nebraska sandsage prairie in 2017 and is currently engaged in a range-wide ecological survey of that will, hopefully, yield insights that inform conservation management practices. This research is being supported by a generous donation from the Loveland Garden Club (Garden Club of America member) of Omaha, Nebraska.

Blowout Penstemon Seed Banking Project

The blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii) is one of the rarest and most endangered plant species in the United States. It is currently known from 10 naturally-occurring populations in the Nebraska Sandhills and from three populations on sand dunes in the Ferris Dunes of south-central Wyoming. Lauritzen Gardens is working with a team of federal and state botanists to conduct a systematic, range-wide seed banking effort for this species. The effort will involve collecting seed samples from as many extant populations as is possible and prudent.

Missouri Botanical Garden

(Provided by Christy Edwards and Matthew Albrecht)

Missouri Botanical Garden is conducting a research project with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) species Mead’s milkweed (Asclepias meadii). This species is endemic to tallgrass prairies and listed as federally threatened on the Endangered Species Act. It is a long-lived perennial plant that occupies mature tallgrass prairie habitats in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois. The goal of the project is to understand whether a genetic bottleneck or low genetic variation is limiting reproduction and the overall viability of the species. Genetic data from this study will help inform ongoing restoration and conservation efforts with this species.

The initial decline of the species was due to habitat loss and adverse land management practices. Low fecundity was a factor in preventing recovery of the species. Some populations produced only a few or no seed pods each year. This seemed to vary among populations — some populations did successfully produce seed pods each year, but others produced none. It is unknown whether populations that do not produce seed indeed have lower genetic diversity and higher relatedness than those successfully producing seed, or whether other unknown factors are affecting fecundity in Mead’s milkweed.

The Shaw Nature Reserve has created over 300 acres of prairie plantings: “The Reserve’s prairie plantings (on former farmland or pasture) represent this once-vast, nearly treeless ecosystem, of which less than 1% of the original remains intact . . . Prairie plants are introduced by direct seeding, and less often, greenhouse-grown transplants. The tall grasses, reaching as high as 10 feet, remind us of the ocean as they wave in a gentle breeze. Over 70 species of wildflowers bloom in the prairie beginning in May and ending in October. The leaves, stalks, and blossoms of these wildflowers present a fascinating variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Some species, such as goldenrods and sunflowers, spread across the prairie in bright yellow masses in late summer, while to discover other species may require more careful searching among the grasses.” Note: Asclepias meadii does not occur naturally at Shaw Nature Reserve, and it has not been successful at establishing an introduced population on the premises. Learn more about the Shaw Nature Reserve here.

BACKGRROUND PHOTO: Asclepias-meadii

Missouri Botanical Garden

(Provided by Christy Edwards and Matthew Albrecht)

Missouri Botanical Garden is conducting a research project with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) species Mead’s milkweed (Asclepias meadii). This species is endemic to tallgrass prairies and listed as federally threatened on the Endangered Species Act. It is a long-lived perennial plant that occupies mature tallgrass prairie habitats in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois. The goal of the project is to understand whether a genetic bottleneck or low genetic variation is limiting reproduction and the overall viability of the species. Genetic data from this study will help inform ongoing restoration and conservation efforts with this species.

The initial decline of the species was due to habitat loss and adverse land management practices. Low fecundity was a factor in preventing recovery of the species. Some populations produced only a few or no seed pods each year. This seemed to vary among populations — some populations did successfully produce seed pods each year, but others produced none. It is unknown whether populations that do not produce seed indeed have lower genetic diversity and higher relatedness than those successfully producing seed, or whether other unknown factors are affecting fecundity in Mead’s milkweed.

The Shaw Nature Reserve has created over 300 acres of prairie plantings: “The Reserve’s prairie plantings (on former farmland or pasture) represent this once-vast, nearly treeless ecosystem, of which less than 1% of the original remains intact . . . Prairie plants are introduced by direct seeding, and less often, greenhouse-grown transplants. The tall grasses, reaching as high as 10 feet, remind us of the ocean as they wave in a gentle breeze. Over 70 species of wildflowers bloom in the prairie beginning in May and ending in October. The leaves, stalks, and blossoms of these wildflowers present a fascinating variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Some species, such as goldenrods and sunflowers, spread across the prairie in bright yellow masses in late summer, while to discover other species may require more careful searching among the grasses.” Note: Asclepias meadii does not occur naturally at Shaw Nature Reserve, and it has not been successful at establishing an introduced population on the premises. Learn more about the Shaw Nature Reserve here.

PHOTO: Asclepias-meadii

In North America, you can find tallgrass prairie, mixed-grass prairie, or shortgrass prairie.

  • Tallgrass: Its main feature is tall grasses, such as indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).
  • Mixed-grass: A transition area between tallgrass prairies and shortgrass prairies.
  • Shortgrass: The two most dominant grasses are blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides); the two less dominant grasses are greasegrass (Tridens flavus) and sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula).

There are three types of prairies: wet, mesic, and dry.

  • Wet prairies have moist soil. Water drainage is usually poor. As a result, bogs and fens may form. The soil is excellent farming soil.
  • Mesic prairies have good soil and good drainage. They are endangered due to converting to agricultural use.
  • Dry prairies can have wet to very dry soil during growing season. They have good drainage and can be found on uplands and slopes.

More information on prairies:

America’s Grasslands: A Threatened National Treasure

Preserving the Tallgrass Prairie

Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie (excerpt)

Karval Short Grass Prairie Center

PHOTO: Meads milkweed

Dr Peter Raven

Announcements

Dr. Peter Raven awarded the National Geographic Hubbard Medal.

Each year, National Geographic awards the Hubbard Medal to recognize “lifetime achievement in research, discovery, and exploration.” This year, the Hubbard Medal was awarded to Dr. Peter H. Raven for his work as a botanist and for his work as a conservation advocate. Learn more.

Employment

USFWS Permits Biologist; 2 vacancies (Falls Church, Virginia)

Two Permits Biologists (plant or animal science background), GS9-11, Permanent

Announcement number: R9-1810227487-RM

Open to all U.S. citizens

More information here.

Field Botany Technician (invasive plants) at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

In collaboration with the Angeles National Forest, you’ll work in a team to assist the field crew lead and director of conservation programs with invasive plant management in the Angeles National Forest. Duties include hand removal of invasive plant species, herbicide application, rugged backcountry hiking, and some GPS mapping of plant populations. Must approach all tasks with respect for natural, cultural, and fiscal resources, as well as co-workers, volunteers, partner agencies, and organizations. This is a full-time temporary position (40 hours a week for one year, with possibility of extension, starting in July or as soon as positions are filled). Learn more here.

Seed Conservation Intern at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Assist the Director of Conservation Programs, Seeds of Success Coordinator, and the Seed Conservation Program Manager in execution of field research and seed collecting activities for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s California Plant Rescue (CaPR) program and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Seeds of Success Program (SOS). CaPR is a collaborative project to secure the future of the state’s native flora by collecting seeds of California native plant species for long-term preservation in secure regional seed banks (ex-situ conservation). SOS is a program coordinated by the BLM to support seed collections from native plant populations to conserve and develop native plant materials for stabilizing, rehabilitating, and restoring lands in the United States. Learn more here.

Horticulturist (Internship) at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

The intern will acquire proficiency in diverse skills involved in installing and maintaining garden areas including: maintenance of cultivated areas, upkeep of garden paths, restoration/renovation of existing garden beds, plant record-keeping and labeling, maintenance of other outdoor facility areas such as the main entrance, parking areas, approaches to buildings, etc. Specific activities include raking, mulching, planting and transplanting, watering, weeding, pruning, answering visitors’ questions, plant record inventory, shoveling of soil, gravel, mulch, etc., and clearing herbaceous and woody material. Learn more here.

PHOTO: Aeschynomene virginica seedheads

Events

July 30-August 1, 2018
  2nd Seed Longevity Workshop, Fort Collins, Colorado. Hosted by the International Society for Seed Science, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Colorado State University. More information here.

August 26-30, 2018
  Association of Zoological Horticulture Annual Conference, Winnipeg, Canada. For more information, click here.

September 13-14, 2018  
State of the World’s Fungi Symposium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. More information here.

October 23-25, 2018  Natural Areas Conference, “Building Resilience: The Future of Natural Areas”.  Indiana Memorial Union, Bloomington, Indiana. More info here.

PHOTO: Allium munzii

Thank you for helping us save plant species facing extinction by making your gift to CPC through our secure PayPal Portal! Everyone who donates to CPC becomes a valued Member.

Donate

If you would like to receive more news like this please sign up below

SIGN UP
By | 2018-07-11T18:59:32+00:00 June 13th, 2018|news|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Walter Desmond June 19, 2018 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    We discovered a nice prairie restoration project, begun in 1939 at the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Nebraska (we were there for the eclipse!!!)
    The very impressive monument, museum, trails, etc. commemorate and preserve the very first homestead established under the 1862 Homestead Act.
    Of course relevant to tall-grass prairie, because this was the beginning of the end of much of the prairie—uprooted literally for homestead farming.
    The restoration is a great demonstration of the amazing diversity of flora in what is often though of as just a prairie–and the millenia-old build up of the stabilizing root-zone.
    Worth the trip–an hour from Omaha and the Lauritzen Botanic Gardens
    https://www.nps.gov/home/learn/nature/prairies.htm

Leave A Comment