In 2023, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden conservation staff targeted Silver Palm Groves, another Miami-Dade County property managed by the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EEL), for additional Florida Keys noseburn seed collecting. The preserve was chosen since it had a recent prescribed fire which led to a boom in Florida Keys noseburn fecundity. Using a similar strategy as last year’s Florida Plant Rescue (FLPR) collection at Ingram Pineland Preserve, the team used gloves to protect their hands as they placed mesh drawstring organza bags over ripening capsules of Florida Keys noseburn plants. The bags allowed staff to capture Florida Keys noseburn seeds before they explosively burst from capsules, which is a common dispersal strategy for plants in the spurge family. In total, the team collected 1,511 seeds across 137 maternal lines.
From stem to fruit, an entire Florida Keys noseburn plant (Tragia saxicola) is covered with silvery stinging hairs that pack a real punch. Luckily the hairs are so fine that they don’t pierce latex gloves; thus, the collecting efforts by Fairchild’s conservation team biologists were not as painful as they feared. Although this species is endemic to pine rocklands of Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys, it is quite widespread within this range. According to The Institute for Regional Conservation’s online Floristic Inventory of South Florida, it is present in 38 conservation areas.
Florida Keys noseburn is a short-statured herb which is not always easy to find amongst the palmettoes and grasses. Fruit development is not strongly seasonal, with plants not typically forming more than one fruit at a time. These factors normally make collecting Florida Keys noseburn seed difficult and time consuming, however Fairchild’s conservation team was very lucky to have help from a recent wildfire which burned Ingram Pineland Environmentally Endangered Lands Preserve. Several months later, the team found Florida Keys noseburn en masse, easily accessible, and blooming and fruiting synchronously. They collected 636 seeds from 116 maternal lines and added this species to their seed bank for the first time.
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