Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NJ DEP Team Makes Largest Find of Rare Plant

It's hard to believe that anything new and rare could still be discovered in our densely populated New Jersey, but a team of NJDEP researchers and scientists has documented that the world’s largest population of the rare and state endangered “Spreading Globeflower” is located on a state nature preserve in Sussex County, the Department announced today.

The find of thousands of the rare plants, formally labeled Trollius laxus, was made this spring by employees of the DEP’s Natural Lands Trust and the Natural Heritage Program.

The Spreading Globeflower is a member of the Buttercup Family. It features several large, pale-yellow flowers which usually begin to bloom in mid April and continue to flower through May. It is a wetland species that grows primarily in calcareous fens and open wooded swamps.

“This discovery serves as a reminder that important botanical discoveries are still being made in New Jersey and highlights the rich, botanical diversity that New Jersey has been long known for,” said Amy Cradic, DEP Assistant Commissioner of Natural and Historic Resources. “Hopefully, it serves as encouragement to our residents to go out and explore the state’s many state parks and forests, natural areas, preserves and wildlife management areas.”

Left photo: Trollius laxus, commonly known as the Spreading Globeflower,
is a state endangered plant. It is a member of the Buttercup family.
Right photo: A large population of Speading Globeflower was discovered
in this natural lands area in central Sussex County.
Trollius laxus is found in just five northeastern states: New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. As of 2010, less than 60 populations have been confirmed, with New York and New Jersey having the bulk of the world’s populations.

In New Jersey, the plant is largely confined to the limestone belt in Sussex and Warren counties. Populations throughout its range tend to be small to moderate in size and typically occur as isolated small colonies or patches of a few hundred or fewer plants.

However, the New Jersey population recently discovered on a Natural Lands Trust preserve in Sussex County is massive. This population of Spreading Globeflower is estimated at 15,000 extremely robust clumps occurring on about two acres, and forming a near solid ground cover on a quarter acre of the preserve.

In both acreage occupied and size of population, this discovery is unprecedented, according to DEP scientists, who are still working to determine the full extent of this find in Sussex County. The largest population currently documented consists of about 2,000 plants and is located in upstate New York.

Trollius laxus used to be more commonly found in North Jersey, observed in parts of Passaic County until the late 1800s, last seen in Bergen County in 1919, and found as recently as 1980 in parts of Morris County.

The species' decline over the past century is a direct result of loss of wetland habitats through filling, flooding caused by beavers and loss of open habitat through woody plant encroachment and the spread of non native invasive plant species.

DEP staff involved in the discovery include, David Snyder, botanist, Natural Heritage Program; Kathleen S. Walz, ecologist, Natural Heritage Program; and Martin Rapp, preserve manager, N.J. Natural Lands Trust.

“New Jersey actually has greater botanical diversity compared to much larger neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania, and we have endemic plants found nowhere else in the world,” said Bob Cartica, administrator of the DEP’s Office of Natural Lands Management.

In 2008, for example, also in Sussex County, DEP staff discovered a plant species never before observed in New Jersey, the fern-leaf scorpion-flower, or Phacelia bipinnatifida, in the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area.


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