CPC Plant Profile: Louisiana Quillwort
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Plant Profile

Louisiana Quillwort (Isoetes louisianensis)

Small plants growing in pots in a greenhouse. Photo Credit: Suzzanne Chapman
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Isoetaceae
  • State: AL, LA, MS
  • Nature Serve ID: 147932
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 07/19/1991

Quillworts, relatives of ferns, live in or near lakes or streams, especially those with low nutrient content. Lacking stomata, quillworts take in carbon dioxide from the soil and collect the gas in four long, cylindrical air chambers inside their leaves. Quillworts are primitive, seedless vascular plants and reproduce by spores. The sporangia (spore-containing structures) are found inside the broadened bases of the 6-16 inch-long leaves of these "living fossils". The Louisiana quillwort is thought to be one of the rarest quillworts in North America and inhabits cool, clear creeks and roots in sand and gravel a few inches to a few feet under water. It appears to be dependent on small springs to provide water flow during dry seasons.

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    Updates
    Center for Plant Conservation
    • 11/25/2021
    • Reintroduction

    A test introduction (and augmentation) to the historic range of this species took place on October 23, 2008. This introduction is likely within the same population of plants within the Abita Creek watershed in St. Tammany Parish, LA. ~70 plants rescued on April 29, 2002 from a bridge construction site on Abita Creek, St. Tammany Parish, LA, were sent to Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, a Center for Plant Conservation participating institution. Plants multiplied to ~600 individuals in the conservation nursery at Mercer Arboretum by 2008. Plants are to be reintroduced to the original bridge construction site ~2010, however, in order to test reintroduction methods, partners decided to conduct a test introduction and augmentation during 2008 to a portion of the historic range above and upstream from the bridge construction site. The date chosen coincided with the latter part of the Gulf Coast hurricane season, during a time of normal water levels, low turbidity and stable soil substrate conditions. On October 20, plants were gently dug up with forks from their nursery pot substrate of 1/2 peat and 1/2 sand; packed in damp sphagnum within plastic bags; boxed inside a styrofoam shipping box with cool packs and immediately shipped overnight to LNHP. The box lid and bags were loosened, and plants were held at cool office temperatures until Oct. 23. A total of 124 quillworts (above 2-3cm in length) were transplanted by staff from the LNHP, FWS and TNC to the TNC Preserve (115 plants) and to the adjoining property registered with the Natural Areas Program (9). Bare-rooted plants were placed in small holes (3-4" deep) dug with forks or small trowels and the soil was gently packed around the plants such that only the photosynthetic portion of the leaves were exposed. Several microhabitats were tested based on previous observations for the species: muddy low banks, creek banks, sand/gravel bars, and submersed in creek bed, but most were planted along the creek bank adjacent to the water. At least one existing plant was found near one of the transplant locations. The number of plants per area, site comments, and GPS coordinates were recorded for each transplant location. Images were taken to document the transplanting procedures and creek conditions. The sites will be revisited in late winter/early spring 2009 to determine survival and transplant success. Future field assessment dates will then be determined to monitor this test introduction.

    • 09/16/2020
    • Living Collection

    Plants received from one site from Washington Parish in Louisiana in 1991 by Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens prefer cool, semi-aquatic conditions in our shade nursery. Plants are grown in shallow tubs on saucers in cool (at ground level), shade conditions and prefer an acidic sand-peat substrate. In addition, sixty-nine plants were received from the Louisiana Natural Heritage Office, Baton Rouge, in April 2002 as a rescue from a bridge construction site in St. Tammany Parish. These plants are thriving in Mercer's conservation nursery.

    • 09/16/2020
    • Propagation Research

    Propagation techniques for Isoetes are referenced to researchers including Garrie Landry and Dr. Neil Luebke.

    • 09/16/2020
    • Cryo

    Tissue culture and cryopreservation research is ongoing at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife by Dr. Valerie Pence. Dr. Pence is developing protocols for tissue culture and cryopreservation of this species under ""Tissue Culture Propagation of Selected Species in the National Collection of Endangered Plants"" (Institute of Museum and Library Services grant) from plants in propagation at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. Protocols for the long-term storage of spores, etc. have not been established.

    • 09/16/2020
    • Tissue Culture

    Tissue culture and cryopreservation research is ongoing at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife by Dr. Valerie Pence. Dr. Pence is developing protocols for tissue culture and cryopreservation of this species under ""Tissue Culture Propagation of Selected Species in the National Collection of Endangered Plants"" (Institute of Museum and Library Services grant) from plants in propagation at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. Protocols for the long-term storage of spores, etc. have not been established.

    • 09/16/2020
    • Demographic Research

    Currently known from ~10 sites in St. Tammany and Washington parishes in southeastern Louisiana as reported by the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program in January 2002 (Patricia Faulkner, 2002): Site 1 last observation 2001; 3 populations first still in tact, plants not counted, but original count listed 2600 plants, second group 20 plants, and third group 270 plants down from 335. Site 2 last observation 1997, 4 plants reported; not searched in 2001 survey ownership questionable, no access Site 3 last observation 2001; 83 plants found near bridge in one population, another population reported in 1997 in same area 335 plants probably still intact. Site 4 last observation 2001; 2000-2500 plants in sweetgum wetland. Site 5 last observation 1997; 50 plants; habitat now considered marginal Site 6 last observation 1997; 25 plants in brushy streamside where timber had been harvested. Site 7 last observation 2001; no plants found and habitat deteriorated; original population of 18 plants in 1997 Site 8 last observation 1997; 20 plants. Site 9 originally identified as I. louisianensis, but later (1997) tentatively identified as I. melanopoda. Site 10 last observation 2001; near Abita Creek Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy; total 800 plants.

    Nature Serve Biotics
    • 05/02/2017

    Isoetes louisianensis is known from shallow blackwater streams in the riparian woodlands and bayhead forests of southern Mississippi, two Parishes in adjacent eastern Louisiana, and two counties in southern Alabama. Approximately 46 occurrences are believed extant, mostly in Mississippi. The total population appears to be between 10,000 and 70,000 plants. Threats include any activity that affects the hydrology, water quality, or substrate stability of the habitat, such as sand and gravel dredging, stream channelization, livestock grazing in the streams, feral pig activity, and/or erosion from clear-cut logging of adjacent forests.

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Timber harvest leading to erosion and runoff. Gravel mining significantly transforms riparian forest communities and alters stream quality and dynamics and poses serious threat to populations. Dredging, ditching, channelization, road construction.

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Currently known from ~10 sites in St. Tammany and Washington parishes in southeastern Louisiana as reported by the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program in January 2002 (Patricia Faulkner, 2002): Site 1 last observation 2001; 3 populations first still in tact, plants not counted, but original count listed 2600 plants, second group 20 plants, and third group 270 plants down from 335. Site 2 last observation 1997, 4 plants reported; not searched in 2001 survey ownership questionable, no access Site 3 last observation 2001; 83 plants found near bridge in one population, another population reported in 1997 in same area 335 plants probably still intact. Site 4 last observation 2001; 2000-2500 plants in sweetgum wetland. Site 5 last observation 1997; 50 plants; habitat now considered marginal Site 6 last observation 1997; 25 plants in brushy streamside where timber had been harvested. Site 7 last observation 2001; no plants found and habitat deteriorated; original population of 18 plants in 1997 Site 8 last observation 1997; 20 plants. Site 9 originally identified as I. louisianensis, but later (1997) tentatively identified as I. melanopoda. Site 10 last observation 2001; near Abita Creek Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy; total 800 plants. USFWS (1996) report occurrences in two counties in southern Mississippi: Jackson and Perry counties: Jackson County, DeSoto National Forest, Red Creek Wildlife Management Area, Tchoutacabouffa River watershed: Site 1 - ~50 plants in overflow channels of a streamhead Perry County, DeSoto National Forest, Camp Shelby National Guard Training Site, Pascagoula River Watershed: Site 2 - ~2,500 plants in five colonies along a 1.0 mile stretch near the headwaters of a creek Site 3 - ~1,500 plants in scour channels mainly along a 0.2 mile stretch of a small tributary Site 4 - ~20 plants near an intermittent stream draining into a creek

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Tissue culture and cryopreservation research is ongoing at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife by Dr. Valerie Pence. Dr. Pence is developing protocols for tissue culture and cryopreservation of this species under ""Tissue Culture Propagation of Selected Species in the National Collection of Endangered Plants"" (Institute of Museum and Library Services grant) from plants in propagation at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. Protocols for the long-term storage of spores, etc. have not been established. Propagation techniques for Isoetes are referenced to researchers including Garrie Landry and Dr. Neil Luebke. Plants received from one site from Washington Parish in Louisiana in 1991 by Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens prefer cool, semi-aquatic conditions in our shade nursery. Plants are grown in shallow tubs on saucers in cool (at ground level), shade conditions and prefer an acidic sand-peat substrate. In addition, sixty-nine plants were received from the Louisiana Natural Heritage Office, Baton Rouge, in April 2002 as a rescue from a bridge construction site in St. Tammany Parish. These plants are thriving in Mercer's conservation nursery. These plants will be reintroduced near the collection site following restoration of the area in 2003 or 2004. Mercers off-site Conservation Area provides secure, raised beds for mass propagation of plants. Each bed within the Conservation Area is provided with independently controlled irrigation and contains propagation substrates that meet the unique requirements for each species. Beds for wetlands species are lined to provide aquatic conditions. Isoetes louisianensis plants can be maintained/produced in mass within Mercers Conservation Area, in addition to those currently maintained in our Nursery, for reintroductions and restorations. The Endangered Species Garden, established in 1994 with support from Star Enterprises, displays rare native plants for the public to view year-round. In Spring 2002, the River Oaks Garden Club of Houston, TX provided a generous gift to initiate the expansion and renovation of Mercers Endangered Species Garden. This expansion and renovation will include a stream habitat and will provide a permanent educational display habitat for the Louisiana Quillwort. Mercer maintains a permanent bank of rare seeds and plants collected from field surveys and from propagation work. Mercer also banks subsets of rare seeds or plants with our collaborating CPC institutions and with the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) in Ft. Collins, CO (formerly called the National Seed Storage Laboratories).

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Conservation measures have been taken to preserve the health of a number of locations where this species occurs (USFWS 1996).

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Research the basic biology of this species. Continued analysis of the genetics of this species. Rescue of threatened populations. Identify secure reintroduction sites.

    Dave Berkshire
    • 01/01/2010

    Expand gene bank. Propagation protocols for spores. Maintain rescued populations for reintroductions.

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    Nomenclature
    Taxon Isoetes louisianensis
    Authority Thieret
    Family Isoetaceae
    CPC Number 2345
    ITIS 17133
    USDA ISLO
    Common Names Louisiana quillwort
    Associated Scientific Names Isoetes louisianensis
    Distribution This aquatic plant has been reported along the rivers and streams in St. Tammany and Washington parishes in Louisiana and in Jackson and Perry counties in Mississippi within the Gulf Coastal Plain phy
    State Rank
    State State Rank
    Alabama S1
    Louisiana S2
    Mississippi S2
    Habitat

    Occurs on sand and gravel bars, overflow channels, and areas in or near shallow, blackwater streams in riparian woodland and bayhead forests of pine flatwoods and upland pine forests. (USFWS 1996Louisiana Quillwort is associated with Viola primulifolia (Primrose-leafed Violet), Scirpus divaricatus (Bullrush), Justicia lanceolata (Water-willow, Hypoxis leptocarpa (Yellow-star Grass), Xyris species (Yellow-eyed Grass) and Carex species (Sedge), Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora (Swamp Tupelo), Nyssa aquatica (Water Tupelo), Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay), Taxodium distichum (Baldcpress), Quercus obtusa (Swamp Laurel Oak), Acer rubrum (Red Maple), Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine), Cyrilla racemiflora (Ti Ti), Lyonia lucida (Fetterbush) and Ilex verticillata (Winterberry).

    Ecological Relationships

    Quillworts, relatives of ferns, live in or near lakes or streams, especially those with low nutrient content. Lacking stomata, quillworts take in carbon dioxide from the soil and collect the gas in four long, cylindrical air chambers inside their leaves.

    Pollinators
    Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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