COSAM » Donald E. Davis Arboretum » Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance » Minutes of APCA Meetings » November 7, 2014

Minutes from November 7, 2014

APCA group November 7 2014

APCA Meeting Minutes 7 November 2014
Held at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL
Recorded by Patrick Thompson

Opened with a welcome from the park staff, followed by thanks by Dr. Boyd to Gulf State Park, Week’s Bay Preserve, and Fred Nation for hosting and helping to organize our 13th meeting. 


  • Bob Boyd, Auburn University Dept of Biological Sciences (BioSci), and APCA Coordinator
  • Dana Stone, Alabama Forestry Commission
  • Amy Wright, Professor AU Department of Horticulture 
  • Kate Fuller, AU Grad Student, BioSci
  • Suzi Mersmann, Wildlife Biologist (Interest in gopher tortoise) 
  • Sharon Hermann, Professor AU BioSci, Fire ecologist
  • John Manion, Curator Kaul Wildflower Garden, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
  • Dee Smith, Curator, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Teri Briggs, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Patrick Thompson, AU Davis Arboretum
  • Beth Clendenon, AU Horticulture 
  • Fred Nation, naturalist 
  • Brian Holt, AL Forever Wild (AL Dept. Conservation and Natural Resources)
  • Wayne Barger, AL Forever Wild 
  • Al Schotz, AL Natural Heritage Program Botanist (AU)
  • Shannon Holbrook, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Daphne Office
  • Susan Henley, Gulf State Park (GSP)
  • CJ Gannin, GSP
  • Kelly Riggs, GSP
  • Richard Cobb, AL Wildflower Society (ALWS)
  • Nancy Cobb ALWS
  • Tim Mersmann, District Ranger Conecuh National Forest
  • Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service 
  • Bobby Greene, Nurseryman
  • Patrick Waldrop, Forester
  • Dennis Gentry, Native plant enthusiast

Fred Nation: Flora of Gulf State Park

A random sample of interesting AL coastal plants, stories, and perils in the park

Habitats found in the park as you move inland:

  • Beaches
  • Dunes
  • Back dunes
  • Interdune swales
  • Saltmarshes
  • Brackish tidal ponds
  • Maritime forests

In them you can find many interesting plant species, among them:
Pinus clausa, sand pine. A smallish gnarly pine. In GSP, cones open and disperse seeds from the tree, and are so persistent on branches that they can get swallowed by wood as the branch grows. Central FL populations of the same species have serotinous (requiring fire) cones.   

Hypericum reductum (syn. tenuifolium) scrubby St Johnswort. A small shrub recognizable by relatively large seed capsules

AL Natural Heritage Program State Ranking System

S1 =critically imperiled, S2= imperiled, on down to S5= secure
SH=possibly extirpated
SX=believed extinct

Quercus myrtifolia, myrtle oak. Very coastal species, small in stature, small round leaves, leaves can have very small mucrose spines.

Quercus arkansana, Arkansas oak. S2G3, occurs in GSP

Aristida spiciformis, bottlebrush three awn. Formerly SH, now S1G4

Argemone albiflora, prickly poppy.  Represented by a single population in the park

Hibiscus grandiflorus, swamp rosemallow. GSP has a glorious population of these, covering acres and acres, but it doesn’t occur elsewhere in the state

Perils in the Park

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan inundated the park with saltwater that couldn’t escape, stressing and killing many trees.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina did the same thing.  Salt and wind damage were severe.
June 2011, 900 acres burned in a very hot wildfire.

These events created vacancies filled by super aggressive super plants

Plants mentioned in Fred’s talk:

  • Triadica sebifera, popcorn tree. A nonnative invasive species that has taken full advantage of the situation
  • Cortadaria selloana, fertile(!) pampas grass.  Fred reported seeing this species being well behaved his entire life, but in the last 6 years, something has changed and it is spreading.  Seedlings are sprouting aggressively in some areas including GSP.
  • Hibiscus cocccineusscarlet hibiscus. A native super plant that thrived in the habitats that opened up as a result of the park’s salt and fire damage. S1G4
  • Setaria magna, saltmarsh foxtail.  A halophyte (salt lover) that thrived in the hurricane damaged areas.
  • Canna flacida, bandana of the everglades.  S1G4, Doesn’t like competition, but also did well in damaged areas.
  • Helianthus debilis, beach sunflower.
  • Rhapidophyllum hystrix, needle palm. Protected in FL because it was exploited and sent north to provide palm fronds for sale.
  • Erigonum tomentosum, sandhill buckwheat.
  • Crocanthemum arenicola, sand rockrose.
  • Salicornia bigelovii, Saltwort. Is suffrutescent: partially or slightly woody; subshrubby
  • Clinopodium coccineum, scarlet wildbasil. Tough to grow in cultivation
  • Conradina canescens, beach rosemary. Tough to grow in cultivation
  • Ceratiola ericoides, sand heath. Tough to grow in cultivation
  • Bartonia verna, white screwstem. Saprophytic
  • Kalmia hirsuta, hairy wicky. Relative of mountain laurel
  • Sarracenia leucophylla, white topped pitcherplant.  Exceedingly attractive, and carnivorous
  • Pinguicula planifolia, Chapman’s butterwort. Also attractive and carnivorous S1,S2 G3

This ended Fred’s photo-rich presentation, and the continued discussion of perils in the park led directly into questions about pressure from laurel wilt disease.  

Dana Stone provided a very current map of the distribution of Laurel Wilt Disease by year of initial detection (see below).  She described symptoms as a graying of some terminal branches, then an abrupt wilt of the entire tree within about 2 weeks’ time.

A map of the emerald ash borer quarantine around Atlanta was also distributed, which includes Carroll County on the AL border adjacent to Cleburne and Randolph counties.

There was also discussion of a possible case of Opuntias at Ft Morgan being eradicated because of a potential Cactoblastis threat.     


At this point, Dr. Boyd gave the quick explanation that APCA functions on project based model inspired by the GPCA in which we meet a couple times each year to compare notes 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.  

He then pointed out that our meetings repeatedly draw a crowd as shown by our numerous group photos, and showed pictures of the post meeting tours of the Davis Arboretum and Freeman Herbarium at Auburn University, and granite rock outcrop foray following our spring 2014 joint APCA/GPCA meeting.

This led to John Manion announcing the Spring 2015 meeting at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on May 22nd. This will include: a special presentation, perhaps on funding conservation efforts, and a foray to Village Creek, a diverse site that is home to among other things, the southern most population ofTsuga canadensis, the Eastern hemlock.

Then an open invite was made for any discussion that needed to be handled before lunch because some people weren’t going to stay for the afternoon.

Shannon Holbrook brought to our attention once again the megapetition that has swamped the USFWS.  She handed out a list of the 28 species of plants that are on the petition (see below) and occur in AL.  Any information on wild populations, research, or recovery work with these species is much appreciated and can be shared with her or the AL field office. Her email address

Species reports

 Alabama milkvine, Matalea alabamensis 
W. Barger reports sites were not visited this year. Numerous previous visits have resulted in 2 observations of specimens with evidence of seed production, but seeds have not been collected.  2 seedlings from outside the vicinity of previously IDed individuals were grown to flowering size by the AU Davis Arboretum (AUDA) and flowered, thus proving (because floral characters are key to ID) they were M. alabamensis, but despite visits by potential pollinators, did not produce seeds.     

Whorled SunflowerHelianthus verticillatus 
W. Barger reported this species was listed as endangered in August 2014.  It is very rare, but has a high chance of recovery due to its vigorous nature and significant genetic diversity within and between remaining populations.  

A recovery outline for the species has been released, and a draft of the recovery plan is scheduled to be finalized for review in February 2016, and the final recovery plan should be sent to the Regional Office for review by September 2017. Sites were not visited this year, but safeguarded material continues to grow well at AUDA, ABG, BBG.

John Manion displayed the top 25 list of potential plants that might be APCA project targets, prepared by AL Schotz in 2009, to encourage a review of our active projects.  Some have become inactive projects with little to report, and the make up of most committees needs to be revisited.  

He stressed the need for goal setting and discussion between meetings by committees to make sure progress is being made whenever possible. He encouraged each committee to try to have goals in mind for discussion at the Spring 2015 meeting at BBG.  

**A handout titled “APCA Project Committees Draft November 2014” was prepared by Dr. Boyd and passed out with the agenda. It included 12 projects and the committees associated with them.  

Tutwiler’s spleenwort  Asplenium tutwilerae  

Lots to tell! 

  • This species now joins our short list of in situ conservation efforts with a group of young ferns grown from spores being used to augment the species’ singular population in Havana Glen.
  • The site hasn’t been visited since spring, but survival rate of the outplanting will be recorded during the annual census performed by the Cobbs, and whatever help they can get.
  • A new lab technician is joining the efforts for spore propagation at BBG, and expanding treatments and increasing detail of record keeping for the benefit of future efforts. 
  • An intern at BBG made a 3 panel display about this species and presented it over the summer to the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western North Carolina University.
  • The Freshwater Land Trust is exploring possibilities to get Havana Glen into secure holdings!
  • Unfortunately John also had to report that some A. tutwilerae and other rare ferns like Cheilanthes alabamensis were stolen from BBG

Break for Lunch and group picture

Canebrake Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia alabamensis
Patrick Thompson 

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 and the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG).  50 plants seed grown from the site by ABG were used to augment an existing population at Camp Tuckabachee.  

Plants collected from a second site are growing well here in Auburn and at the safeguarding site where it was planted around 1980.  At the privately owned safeguarding site, a few plants saved from development have been growing quietly for about 30 years. 

At a recent APCA meeting, Chuck Byrd from TNC gave APCA a detailed synopsis of the existing populations, threats to the species, and difficulties and successes among recovery efforts, so those will not be addressed today.  

A committee meeting in September took place at Forever Wild’s office in Montgomery followed by visits to 3 natural sites and 3 outplantings.  In attendance were Ron Determan (ABG), Chuck Byrd (TNC), Patrick Thompson (AUDA), and a handful of Forever Wild employees including Wayne Barger and Brian Holt. 

Accomplishments/discussion included

  • Clarification of names used by different entities to refer to the sites/populations
  • Documentation of current ex situ populations for each site
  • Seed collection at two of the sites least represented in ex situ holdings
  • Goal setting

Goals set for future include

  • Continued efforts to safeguard extant genets
    • One known population not safeguarded, and is not currently healthy enough to produce seeds in situ.
  • Possible experimentation with asexual reproduction in case wild plants don’t produce seeds.
  • Agreement on a uniform static naming system for the populations
    • Right now using name of current landowner, resulting in multiple names for singular populations 
  • Investigation into currently owned secure properties for appropriate habitat for introduction/ or reintroduction efforts.
  • Continued efforts to document all possible benefits of any potential future acquisition of appropriate habitats
  • Setting up ex situ safeguarding facilities in Alabama to maintain genetically pure representation of the existing genets for the species
    • Based on ABG’s success at its Smith Gall safeguarding facility 
    • Initial locations: BBG and AUDA

How to set up ex situ safeguarding facilities for rare plants
Patrick Thompson 

This is a labor intensive effort, to be used as a last resort when wild populations are under extreme pressure.

To be done correctly it requires a long term institutional commitment, excellent record keeping, permanent labeling of plant material, and frequent horticultural attention.

It is well suited to botanical and university gardens that have interest and capabilities beyond those of individuals.  Atlanta Botanical Gardens is so good at this that they have offered (repeatedly for some years now) to gladly repatriate some of AL’s rarest plants into ex situ holdings. They currently grow 9 out of 10 of our project species, Matalea alabamensis being the exception.  

This technique is inexpensive to implement once the previous requirements have been addressed.  

For Sarracenia: Clean water, and full sun are essential. Other plants may require different levels of moisture and exposure.   

The basic design:

  • A wooden 4’x 8’ frame 8” tall
  • The interior is lined with a tough plastic Permalon liner
  • The end that receives drip irrigation is raised by a 2” x 4” board 
    • This encourage drainage to the lower end where a flap of the liner can be adjusted to let more water out or keep more in depending on the season and weather 
  • The raised safeguarding bed is filled with an appropriate mix of media, 
    • For Sarracenia, 6” of a peat:sand mix at a 2:1 ratio by volume with a base of pure sand underneath   

ABG’s Smith Gall holding beds with Xyris tenneseensis and Sarracenia (left) and X. spathifolia and a woody shrub I can’t remember (right)

This presentation was intended to encourage construction of these beds in AL to create redundant safeguarding locations in order to reduce the chance of losing material, and increase the amount of plants available for outplanting.  A document on how to build these beds is available upon   

Green Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia oreophila

Patrick Thompson Currently APCA project addresses one site in Mentone AL.

A single seed pod was collected fall 2013, with 9 seeds. Zero germinated.

Site was not visited in 2014.

There is significant overlap in the needs and techniques to be applied between S. alabamensis and S. oreophila.  

Though Chuck Byrd and Ron Determann were ready to discuss in situ and ex situ holding of S.oreophila at the S. alabamensis meeting it was decided that it would be best to focus on one species at a time. It was mentioned that when focus does turn to S. oreophila, Huntsville Botanical Gardens and Anniston’s Longleaf Botanical Gardens may be good places to safeguard S. oreophila in the same way AUDA and BBG are going to focus on S. alabamensis.  There is interest at HBG, but Longleaf is not yet ready to take on this type of conservation work. 

Boynton Oak, Quercus boyntonii
John Manion, Wayne Barger, Patrick Thompson reported that sites visited this year had another year of poor acorn production.  The Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover is currently mapping all individuals of Q. boyntonii and Q. georgiana in part to insure their safety during ongoing work to remove invasives, especially privet, encroaching on existing specimens.

While there are significant populations in the wild few are in secure holdings. Dr. Boyd asked if any sites were under consideration for acquisition.  Barger said the Hinds Road Outcrop (where the holotype for the species was collected) had been nominated before.  It was agreed that public support does increase the likelihood of a nominated tract being acquired.

****follow up emails between Boyd, Barger, and FW’s (Forever Wild) Jo Lewis revealed that there will be a board meeting on Dec 18th in Auburn when citizens can voice support for nominated tracts.  A concise presentation focusing on facts, figures, and perhaps a petition to demonstrate wider public support would likely be well received by the board.  This effort would of course have to come from outside FW. 

Georgia Aster Symphyotrichum georgianum
Ryan Shurette shared a presentation–an existing population that fluctuated between several hundred and 1500 plants is being actively managed on approximately 7 acres in Talladega National Forest (TNF), through an effort involving Alabama Power, the US Forest Service, and Auburn University Horticulture. 

The population now exceeds 4,000 plants.  They are growing very well.  This and other efforts recently led to a Candidate Conservation Agreement for the species, which kept it off the endangered species list.  The agreement is shared across multiple institutions, and is a great example of the type of teamwork APCA aims to facilitate. 

Turkeybeard Xerophyllum asphodeloides 
Ryan Shurette seeds collected from Talladega NF population have been distributed to several sources, but propagation of AL material is even less successful than normal with this difficult species.

Successes at GA tech and ABG are keeping hope alive. Forest Service efforts are getting sun to the plants and they continue to flower and produce seeds.

Ketona Yellow eyed grass Xyris spathifolia 
Bob Boyd Atlanta Botanical Gardens is having success propagating this species. Growing now at BBG and AUDA.

Permissions from the timber company have expired, but attempts will be made to visit the site during bloom time next year.  For now, it remains believed to be extinct in the wild.  It is increasingly secure in safeguarding with Mincy and our public gardens

Jeremiah Devore, Rare plant propagation research in AU Hort 

Alabama Leather Flower, Clematis socialis

BBG has recently signed a conservation agreement with TNC regarding this species.  Efforts with this species at the garden will be focused, documented, and are very promising.  Forming an APCA committee to address this species would increase the effectiveness of that work.  

Pondberry, Lindera melissifolia

Responded well to cutting propagation.  Once research concludes there will indexed plant material available for ex situ safeguarding.  Does well in container, but rarely survives once outplanted into the ground.  Any advice on this practice would be appreciated.

Alabama Phlox, Phlox pulchra 

Also responded well to cutting propagation. Does not grow well from seed. Potential next stage research includes looking into possible effects of soil conditions on flower color.

Haine’s Island Park 
Gena Todia-The group that came out last March was the biggest one yet.  Still doing a good job of keeping the area relatively clear.  Did discover a bottom full of privet. Many plants were of treeish proportions. There was not a fall cleanup, but look for announcements of one coming next spring.

Patrick Thompson In situ and ex situ work is being recorded in our database.  From now on, at this point in the meeting I’d like to know if anyone has any potential projects to share with us that would include rare plant material to be collected or outplanted between now and the next meeting? 

Harper’s heartleaf Hexastylis speciosa

Beth Clendenon, Richard and Nancy Cobb, Ryan Shurette This very rare plant is of interest, exists at 2 locations in the Oakmulgee district of Talladega National Forest, and there is sufficient knowledge of it to make it likely to survive in cultivation and propagation.  Beth will try to follow up on it.

Other plant issues to mention before we close?

American chaffseed, Schwalbea americana
Sharon Hermann has a student, Kate Fuller, working with this species currently. Thought to be extirpated in AL, now known from a single site near Hurtsboro.  Population has decreased in recent years.  It is privately owned and needs vigorous fire. 

Meeting Adjourned for plant hike at GSP and foray on Saturday morning at Blakeley State Park.

Last Updated: 05/24/2016