The Florida-endangerered largebristle beaksedge (Rhynchospora megaplumosa) can be easy to overlook in the Florida scrub where it prefers to grow. The short leaves form small rosettes that send up a single flowering stem or culm. The flowering head is small, about 2 cm across with many spikelets or florets. The plants blend easily with other sedges, grasses, and saw palmetto fronds, at least until one knows what to look for. The scales of the flowering heads are a beautiful copper and are longer than those of most scrubby sedges, ending in a distinctive point. As the seeds or achenes mature, plumose or feathery bristles attached to their bases expand to push the seeds out of their protective scales, ready to drop to the ground or be carried away on an animal’s fur. This gives the seed heads the appearance of having many long-legged spiders hanging from them.
Staff, interns, and volunteers from Marie Selby Botanical Gardens collected seed from this sedge species at Lake Manatee State Park in Manatee County, Florida as part of the Center for Plant Conservation’s Florida Rare Plant Initiative. The population at Lake Manatee is sizeable, an estimated 5000 plants. To increase potential for genetic diversity, seeds were collected from plants throughout the population. Each maternal plant that seed was collected from was flagged so additional seeds could be collected as they matured. Plants had a variable number of seeds, with some having only two, while others produced more than 40. Multiple trips throughout July resulted in the collection of over 660 seeds from 56 plants. These seeds will be stored in conservation seed bank collections to help preserve this species into the future.
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