The History and Future of Plant Conservation in Southwest Georgia

The Jones Center at Ichauway initiated the development of a conservation seed bank in 2019. Our original goal was to collect seeds from species that are rare in Georgia (defined as species that have state ranks of S1-S3) and which grow on Ichauway’s nearly 30,000 acres. More than 10% of Ichauway’s flora (127 out of 1,166 species) are considered rare in Georgia; to date we have banked seeds from 40 of these species. In 2021, through our partnership with the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, we expanded our work to include globally rare species that occur in southwest Georgia. We have worked with five additional species as part of these regional conservation efforts, including the globally critically imperiled Coreopsis integrifolia and Lythrum curtissii. Other plant conservation work to date includes funding and hosting a graduate student project on the federally endangered Schwalbea americana, doing status surveys for Georgia DNR for the federally endangered Lindera melissifolia, and participating in various aspects of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Species Status Assessments and 5-year Reviews for several species. Future efforts include developing and refining germination protocols for our rare species, strengthening our nascent conservation horticulture program, planning and implementing outplantings of rare species (including augmentations and establishing safeguarding populations), and developing additional habitat suitability models for rare species of regional conservation concern. We also recognize the importance of working with private landowners and hope to help develop training opportunities and workshops for both conservation professionals and landowners to help build relationships that will ultimately help us better protect southwest Georgia’s rare plants.