COSAM » Donald E. Davis Arboretum » Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance » Minutes of APCA Meetings » May 1, 2014

Minutes from May 1, 2014

APCA group May 1 2014

APCA Meeting Minutes 1 May 2014
Held at Auburn University
Recorded by Patrick Thompson

A welcome from Dr. Jason Bond, Director of AU’s Museum of Natural History, to our 12th meeting. 

Dr. Bond’s message pointed out the biodiversity in AL, as well as the significant threats it faces. He thanked us for doing the good and ethical work that we do and acknowledged the ever-increasing importance of efforts like ours.


  • Bob Boyd, Auburn University Dept of Biological Sciences, and APCA Coordinator
  • Mincy Moffet, GA DNR, GPCA
  • Nathan Paris, AU grad student researching Apios priceana (federally threatened)
  • Kevin Tarner, Curator of carnivorous plants, Plant Biology Department UGA, GPCA
  • Dana Stone, Alabama Forestry Commission
  • Jan Newton, native plant enthusiast
  • Jenny Cruse Sanders, VP for Science and Conservation, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, GPCA
  • Amy Wright, Professor AU Department of Horticulture 
  • Rachel Conley, AU grad student researching river cane and hogs
  • Kate Fuller, AU Grad Student researching Schwalbea americana (federally endangered)
  • Carrie Radcliffe, Database and Mountain Bog coordinator ABG/GPCA
  • Tom Patrick, GA DNR, GPCA
  • Thomas Peters, Invasive species manager, GPCA
  • Suzi Mersmann, Wildlife Biologist, Gopher tortoise biologist
  • Bill Goldstrom, Botanical Guardian, GPCA
  • Malcom Hodges, The Nature Conservancy, GPCA
  • Jimmy Richards, US Fish and Wildlife Service, GPCA
  • Keith Tassin, The Nature Conservancy (Alabama)
  • Scott Wiggers, US FWS (Jackson MS office) 
  • Sharon Herman, AU Professor Department of Biological Sciences, Fire ecologist
  • Jim Chandler, GA Power, GPCA
  • John Manion, Curator Kaul Wildflower Garden, Birmingham Botanical Gardens (BBG)
  • Fred Spicer, Executive Director, CEO BBG
  • Nancy Lowenstein, AU Forestry Professor, Alabama Invasive Plant Council 
  • Dee Smith, Curator, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Debbie Folkerts, AU Biology Professor, Pitcher plant ecology and spider biology
  • Gwendolyn Griffin, Gardener and Native Plant Student, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
  • Teri Briggs, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Jan Midgley, Grower and Native Seed Specialist
  • Lisa Kruse, GA DNR, GPCA
  • Jennifer Ceska, GPCA Coordinator
  • Ben Dickerson, GA Power, GPCA
  • Hunter McBrayer, Alabama Cooperative Extension
  • Patrick Thompson, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Beth Clendenen, AU Horticulture
  • Evan Kilburn, AU Biological Sciences undgraduate student
  • Kevin Burgess, CSU Biology Professor, and the CSU Burgess Lab entourage 

APCA Intro by Dr. Boyd

APCA functions on project based model inspired by the GPCA in which we meet a couple times each year to report on plant conservation projects across the state, and consider any new issues that plants may be facing that could require conservation activities to keep native plants from becoming endangered or extinct. Our meetings repeatedly draw a crowd as we bounce around the state, as shown by our meeting photos and photos from some of our post-meeting botanical forays. 


Dr. Jenny Cruse Sanders: Surprising Conservation Success Stories

This overview of some of GPCA’s core projects showed how the techniques the APCA has adopted have resulted in major success stories right across the border in Georgia. Dr. Sanders also pointed out that if anyone has questions about how the GPCA does what it does, then this meeting is the perfect time to ask those questions. Many of the specifics are outlined in their Safeguarding Policy Statement. 

Photos in her presentation showed:

  • The last intact Mountain Pitcher Plant Bog as it was known in 1985; overgrown, with its rarest plants decreasing in population and diversity.  
  • Clearing of encroaching woody plants let light into the bog.
  • A Safeguarding collection, the pitcher plant greenhouse at ABG where horticultural requirements can be met to produce sufficient plants for augmenting and reintroduction 
  • Species restoration, which includes mapping and monitoring so they can evaluate success of different species, the focus of the mountain bog sites is Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var.montana
  • The heart of it is the combination of conservation horticulture, and land management. Both of these things require a full suite of skill sets and facilities to be accomplished effectively, and neither side is capable of doing the other’s job.
  • After 24 years of work, the first burn in the mountain bog was accomplished in 2009, it looks very different than it did in 1985. 
  • They have documented a 76% survival rate in the pitcher plants and found 43 recruits in 2012 !
  • There are now 6 mountain bogs in GA
  • They support Hellonias bullata, which has seen an 88% survival rate, and 33 seedlings recruited in 2011/2012. This species is more common up north, but the southern population has significantly higher genetic diversity. 
  • Cleistes bifaria, an uncommon orchid has increased from 3 stems to 153, perhaps because of shelter provided by piles of cleared brush, not an intended result of the pile, but now it has been observed and this effect could be replicated in future efforts.

Standardizing of data collection and management has facilitated ongoing efforts between GA Dept. of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, State Botanical Gardens of Georgia, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, etc.

  • Rhus michauxii, Dwarf Sumac
  • ID was passed through several noted botanists on the East Coast; Michaux named it R. pumila. Olmstead, who studied botany under Boynton, sent the plant to the Biltmore, who sent it to Sargent at The Arnold Arboretum, where it was renamed after Michaux.
  • This clonal species’ known GA population was reduced to 4 genetic individuals, and the males and females occurred at separate sites. 
  • With the addition of fire, the male stem count went from 2 to 155, and the number of genetically unique individuals at the site went from 2 to 10!
  • The males and females were reintroduced to each other, and now the species is doing better than it has in a long time, 
  • Don’t give up!
  • Urban Atlanta Habitat Restoration Project
  • A project that does restoration and interpretation in highly visible public areas
  • Brings a model to the community that schools can get involved in and continue on their own
  • It is also an opportunity for college students to get real world experience by producing detailed maps that add to the value of the project
  • Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership provides info for the improvements to move further into the community through home gardens  

Dr. Mincy Moffet: Xyris tennesseensis Tennessee Yellow-Eyed Grass

This plant is listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is an obligate wetland heliophyte that requires circumneutral pH. It has grasslike linear blades, floral parts in 3s, and produces numerous seeds. In good conditions the seeds will produce a hypophyll that will develop into a five-leaved fan in the first year. 

It depends on calcareous soils, and occurs primarily where those occur in the Ridge and Valley province in AL, as well as in a few outlying locations. It is often found growing with Juncus brachycephalus, Hypericum interior, Ludwigia microcarpa, and Parnassia grandifolia among others.

The GPCA has worked with a population of this species that was rediscovered in a highway cloverleaf. Seeds have been collected, and many plants grown. 8,762 ramets have been outplanted at this site. The major challenge has been balancing the Xyris with the watercress and Hypericum.  

At this point, Mincy called for a show of hands for representatives from AL Department of Transportation, AL office of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and AL Department of Natural Resources.  (crickets)   He was interested in finding a quarterback for a project to restore the Lloyd Spring Chapel Site in Calhoun County AL.  

He reported that from 1998 to 2000, the site had 11,000 – 12,000 stems and has since dwindled to a few hundred. It needs invasive species removal, woody plant removal, and fire if possible.

Scott Wiggers and Jimmy Richards explained that what could be done depended on what the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) for the site says.  Further discussion was delayed until the joint project discussion in the afternoon. 

John Manion, Evan Kilburn, Hunter McBrayer, Tutweiller’s spleenwort and Asplenium tutwilerae  

After John’s introduction, Evan told us about Julia S. Tutwiler’s discovery of the plant and how she hypothesized it was a hybrid, which it is. This species has rebounded from a low of 50 – 60 individuals in the wild back up to around 200 ferns at Havana Glen.

Hunter told us about BBG’s continued efforts to get increase the safeguarded population through continued collection and plating of spores. They have also experimented with establishing the plant outside in soil as well as on the puddingstone that occurs at the field site.  

The goal for this project is to have an established protocol for propagation and reintroduction of this species. The next step is to return some specimens to the site that are growing on puddingstone, and monitor their survival rates in the field.

John has communicated with an agency that is currently working with the landowner to get the glen into a conservation easement.

Break for Lunch and Group Picture

Patrick Thompson, Arboretum Project Updates: Canebrake Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia alabamensis; Green Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia oreophila; Boynton Oak, Quercus boyntonii; Safeguarding; Alabama Milkvine, Matalea alabamensis

Canebrake Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia alabamensis

This federally listed Alabama endemic is one of our main targets. The first APCA project was possible due to the efforts of our partner through the GPCA, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Nature Conservancy of Alabama. Fifty plants grown from seed taken from the site by ABG were used to augment an existing population at Camp Tuckabachee. These have done well, but have been in need of a burn. They got it this winter!

A second site project with this species is growing well here in Auburn and at the safeguarding site where it was planted around 1980. A few plants saved from development have been growing quietly for about 30 years. The site has many of the associated species and appears to be well suited for reintroduction. Seedlings growing in the Arboretum bog and AU Hort Greenhouses could begin to be returned to the site as soon as this winter.   

Green Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia oreophila

The oreophila project we are working on has turned a corner and is looking more promising.  The site was for sale when it was discovered, and there was a chance it could become a neighborhood. Seeds were collected and grown out. They are currently being safeguarded at the AU Arboretum bog and at ABG. 

In the past year, the site has been bought and will not become a neighborhood, but will remain a camp with potential for augmenting the site with continued propagation by APCA partners.  

The site has had increasingly effective work done to increase sunlight to the 8 plants at the site, resulting in an increase in from 35 crowns in 2011 to 59 crowns in 2013.

TNC gave the site a significant clearing this year which should continue to increase the plants’ vigor, though late spring rains reportedly flattened the flowers and may affect seed production this year. A single seed pod was collected fall 2013, and its 9 seeds have been started by the AU Davis Arboretum. 

Boynton Oak, Quercus boyntonii

This species seems to be holding its own, though a narrow range and specific site requirements means it is one worth developing propagation protocols and good baseline data. We have been successful growing it from root cuttings and acorns, though acorn production is often low.

It is threatened by invasives and woody encroachment due to lack of fire in its habitat. This is a good area for further research. 


We are getting our ducks in a row, crawling before we walk, walking before we try to keep pace with the years of work GPCA has put into their database.

So for right now, we have a safeguarding spreadsheet keeping up with the data for 9 species we are working with. It breaks down to about 20 records basically corresponding to a little more than 1 in siturecord and 1 ex situ record for each species.

The next step is to standardize our data collection. We were unable to establish a central point for rare plant data within the state. Vouchered plant material is represented in the Alabama Plant Atlas, but does Wayne Barger or Al Schotz report Elemental Occurences to Nature Serve? Or anywhere? We need this information to establish what we should be recording about each of the wild populations we are working with. 

********This wasn’t said at this point in the meeting, but hinted at earlier by Jenny Cruse Sanders, the GPCA has a 10 page Safeguarding Policy Statement. Look this up online if you have not read it. It clarifies the how, and why, and what, and all the other questions you might have about best management practices for these efforts.***************  

Alabama milkvine, Matalea alabamensis 

this species shares a site with a similar but much more common species, Matalea gonocarpa. The site has a few flowering M. alabamensis, but years of observation have yet to show they are setting seed. It is nearly impossible to distinguish from the more common M. gonocarpa when not in flower, so the true size of the population was not known due to the presence of dozens of small nonflowering plants at the site. Two small specimens were collected. They flowered profusely in a garden setting and proved they were M. alabamensis, indicating that at least some of the unidentifiable plants were the rarer species. They were regularly visited by a small fly identified as Neogriphoneura sordida (a little red fruitfly) though it was seems to be an ineffective pollinator as seeds were not produced. 

Jeremiah Devore, Rare plant propagation research: Alabama Leather Flower, Clematis socialis;Pondberry, Lindera melissifolia; and Alabama Phlox, Phlox pulchra

Alabama Leather Flower, Clematis socialis

Jeremiah states that this species needs 20 populations established and protected to remove it from the Endangered Species List. In this experiment he hopes to determine the effect of substrate on percent of successful rooting of stem cuttings.  

This research will build on previous AU Horticulture research on this species published in a 2006 Master’s thesis by Connie Johnson titled “Stem Cutting Propagation of the Endangered SpeciesClematis socialis (Kral).”

Pondberry, Lindera melissifolia

Jeremiah states that this species needs 25 populations established and protected to remove it from the Endangered Species List. Laurel wilt disease presents a significant threat to populations even on protected lands. In this experiment he hopes to determine most effective rooting hormone, and time of year to take cuttings.

Preliminary results suggest Hormodin 2 over Dip n Grow, and later collection time could yield more success. Cuttings will be taken in summer of 2014, and receive a variety of rooting hormone treatments and be stuck in a variety of media.

Alabama Phlox, Phlox pulchra 

This species is not endangered, but is an Alabama endemic species that has been reported to be in decline across its range. Due to limited seed set, cutting propagation may be the best method to preserve genetic diversity and keep the plant off the endangered species list. In this experiment he hopes to determine the best hormone treatment, and the effect of stem section(terminal versus medial).

Preliminary results suggest that terminal stem cuttings do much better than medial. Cuttings from a local gardener have so far produced 53 plants with a total of 496 stems and 1975 flowers.

Project updates:

Symphyotrichum georgianum (Dr. Amy Wright) –an existing population that fluctuated between several hundred and 1500 plants is being actively managed on approximately 8 acres in Talladega National Forest (TNF), through an effort involving Alabama Power, the US Forest Service, and Auburn University Horticulture. Under the direction of Dr. Wright, the AU Horticulture has grown out and returned to the TNF approximately 3000 new plants, and seeds continue to be collected, grown and returned to the site.

Xerophyllum asphodeloides - (Jan Midgley) Jan has found species challenging to grow from seed: seeds collected from Talladega NF population have been distributed to several sources. Jan’s most recent observations now lead her to believe that dry storage and after-ripening may yield better results despite the plump moist appearance of fresh seed that would seem likely to lose viability if dried.

The challenge of germination will be followed by the challenge of successfully growing the plant in a pot; they don’t like to do that either. Gerry Pullman’s lab at GA Tech is working with cryopreservation of the seed/embryo.

Helianthus verticillatus – (Patrick Thompson) growing well in the AU Arboretum and at BBG. Bill Goldstrom asked about any specific requirements to get seeds to germinate, but the Alabama seeds did not get any special treatment and came up well for several growers.

Xyris spathifolia – (Bob Boyd) 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens is having success propagating this species. It has been recently shared with Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Permission from the timber company to visit the single known locality has expired. It is still believed to be extinct in the wild but it is increasingly secure in safeguarding with Mincy Moffett and our public gardens.  

Haine’s Island Park -We plan to continue to push back the aliens that threaten this biodiverse native habitat on the banks of the Alabama River. Plant list is still growing. We had another workday this spring.  

Cross-borders Project Discussion

Xyris tenneseensis 

Still looking for a leader, people to get involved:

Leah Starino, Fort McClellan- Land Manager

Sarah Clardy, Longleaf Mountain Preserve

Dan Spalding, Anniston Museum of Natural History

Hayes Jackson, Longleaf Botanical Garden

Lindera melissifolia 

Jennifer Ceska said they have been having trouble getting theirs growing with any vigor; seems to be some kind of infection keeping them down. Kevin Trainer offered to help with viral or fungal infections.

Arabis georgiana

G1, S1 in GA and AL the only states it occurs in; candidate for federal listing.

Patrick Thompson asked about populations straddling the border, Goat rock maybe? The answer was no, Fort Benning is the one he was thinking of. Michelle Elmore, and Alysia Garcia are the ones to talk to.

Xerophyllum asphodeloides

Lisa Kruse pointed out that they are having similar germination problems with GA populations of Turkey beard, and would like to be kept in the loop if Jan cracks the code on seed propagation.

Sarracenia oreophila

Mincy asked about the potential to establish AL genotypes across the border in GA. Scott Wiggers said it would not be likely with populations currently on public land. Our campground population is privately owned, and in the same watershed as the sites he was referring to in GA.  

Symphyotrichum georgianum

It was stated that the GA aster population on the Cahaba is in decline, and could benefit from AU Hort’s success growing the species. Committee should follow up with TNC(?) when it is time to collect seeds.

Viburnum bracteatum

Malcolm asked about AL populations, and if there had been any propagation work done with it. Keith Tassin said there are stable populations. It is imperiled and may be a good candidate for propagation work/safeguarding.

John Manion brought up a recent trip to Village Creek. It is the most southwestern occurrence of Carolina hemlock and is a disjunct population from those affected by the wooly adelgid. He shared that it was an amazing location that has been severely affected by natural gas exploration over the last 5 years.

Then the question was put to US Fish and Wildlife, are there any species of special concern for APCA to tackle? Scott responded if it is listed we need you to work with it, and if it is a candidate for listing try to get information on if it is of legitimate concern.

Meeting adjourned to tour the Davis Arboretum and Freeman Herbarium, for the evening social at Dr. Debbie Folkert’s house, and the next day to the granite rock outcrop near Wadley AL for a botanical foray. See our Facebook page for photos from the foray!

Last Updated: 05/24/2016