Implementing the Rare Plant Reintroduction

  • Photo of volunteers planting Ptilimnium nodosum

    Volunteers planting Ptilimnium nodosum. Photo credit: Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden.

  • Photo of volunteer planting Jacquemontia reclinata

    Volunteer planting Jacquemontia reclinata along east coast of Florida. Photo credit: Sam Wright, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

  • Photo of reintroduction along the coast

    Reintroduction along the coast. Photo credit: Mike Kunz, North Carolina Botanical Garden.

  • Photo of conservationist planting Lantana canescens

    Sam Wright, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, plants Lantana canescens. Photo credit: Joyce Maschinski.

  • Photo of conservationist planting Jacquemontia reclinata in coastal dunes

    Jennifer Possley plants Jacquemontia reclinata in coastal dunes of eastern Florida. Photo credit: Sam Wright, Sept. 2011.

  • Photo of Lysimachia asperulifolia reintroduction monitoring

    Lysimachia asperulifolia reintroduction is monitored by Mike Kunz, Nov. 2012.

  • Photo of Tobin Weatherson of San Diego Zoo Global, checking augmentation

    Tobin Weatherson, San Diego Zoo Global, checks augmentation. Photo credit: Joyce Maschinski, 2019.

  • Photo of conservationists conducting an augmentation

    Joe Davitt and Emily Burson, San Diego Zoo Global, conduct an augmentation. Photo credit: Joyce Maschinski, Feb, 2019.

  • Photo of conservationists augmenting a rare species' population

    It takes adequate numbers of people to augment a rare species' population. Photo credit: Joyce Maschinski.

  • Photo of conservationists replanting poached specimens of Dudleya farinosa

    Conservationists replanting poached specimens of Dudleya farinosa.


  • Good logistical preparation will make installation day run smoothly.
  • Ensure that the plants or seed plots are labeled, mapped, and recorded in such a way that they can be monitored for many years into the future.
  • Implementation day is a great day to involve the public. Be sure to demonstrate planting or sowing techniques to safeguard the rare species.

The logistics of the reintroduction day often entail coordinating many details and people. It can be a time of great celebration as a high point in the steps towards a species’ recovery. Particularly when involving volunteers or inexperienced personnel, coordinating logistics well can result in an extremely satisfying event.

Plan how the reintroduction will be implemented.

Plan timing, materials, personnel, and logistics needed to implement the reintroduction. (See the “Questions to Ask Regarding Logistics for Implementation.")

Improve site conditions for the reintroduced species.

  • If necessary, remove invasive species or thin canopy to improve site conditions for the reintroduced species.
  • Often it will be easiest to prepare the site prior to and on a different day than the reintroduction. If site preparation increases the potential risk of invasion by undesirable species or exotics, the site should be monitored for several months and outplantings should be delayed until the risk of invasion is considered low.
  • Multiple site preparation treatments may be required to ensure ideal conditions for reintroduced plants.

Use a system, such as color coding, to easily distinguish plants in different experimental treatments.

  • Select durable, long-lasting tags for labeling plants.
  • Particularly if you have a large number of plants and a large number of people helping with the installation of the reintroduction, it is important to be able to distinguish plants from different treatments. For example, if you are testing plants that had mycorrhizal inoculum versus those that did not, clearly mark plants before moving to the field and clearly mark the location at the site where plants of each group should be planted.
Photo of North Carolina Botanical Garden staff and volunteers assisting with endangered Ptilimnium nodosum reintroduction

North Carolina Botanical Garden gathered many staff and volunteers to assist with endangered Ptilimnium nodosum reintroduction. Photo credit: Johnny Randall, NCBG.

Questions to Ask

Regarding Logistics for Implementation

  1. What is the best season to transplant or sow seeds? Keep in mind that best season for rainfall may also be the hottest time of the year and plants may require more attention.
  2. Have you invited participation from enough staff, volunteers, community members, agency and landowners, or land managers to execute the reintroduction?
  3. Have permits been acquired and are they up-to-date?
  4. How will you ensure that plants will be able to be tracked for many years in the future? Are plants tagged and positions recorded with GPS?
  5. How will you transport plants to the recipient site? Do you have necessary off-road equipment for transport away from roadways?
  6. What is the planting layout design?
  7. How are you going to water plants?
  8. Have you notified the press or have you arranged for photos to be taken of the event? (Note that there may be circumstances when the exact location of the conservation translocation must not be publicized to prevent unauthorized collection of the taxon; however, good conservation news with general descriptions of the reintroduction can be used to engender public enthusiasm for plant conservation. If you are uncertain, talk to your regulatory agency prior to notifying the press.)

(Vallee et al. 2004)

Select microsites carefully.

  • Select microsites carefully or conduct an experiment to test different microsites.
  • Even when there is reasonably good information about the environmental attributes associated with the species occurrence, test plantings can show which microhabitat conditions are optimal for growth and survival and long-term population growth (Maschinski, Falk et al. 2012).
  • Note aspects of the landscape topography, ecosystem dynamics, and patterns that may help determine the locations with greatest likelihood of sustaining a reintroduced population (Maschinski, Falk et al. 2012).
Tracking seed germination endangered Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata

Tracking seed germination in the field can help us understand a critical part of rare plant biology. Kristie Wendelberger labeled seedlings of endangered Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata and measured ecological variables to assess conditions needed for seedling survival. Photo credit: Kristie Wendelberger.

Plant in a spatial pattern that will promote effective pollination, seed production, and recruitment.

  • Plant density strongly influences variation in outcrossing (or selfing) among plants; therefore, plant in a spatial pattern that will encourage the appropriate breeding system of your species (Monks et al. 2012). Planting individuals in small clusters throughout the population, instead of fewer larger clusters, may lead to increased spread in the population (Reichard et al. 2012). Keep spatial design in mind in any experimental design.
  • Understanding a target species’ tolerance for competition and disturbance, as well as habitat composition and structure, can help inform spatial and temporal placement of any reintroduction (Maschinski, Falk et al. 2012; Maschinski, Wright et al., 2012). For example, if the target species is not a good competitor, planting into open spaces with few other species present is beneficial.

Ensure that you have enough help to treat the site and/or install plants.

  • This is a wonderful opportunity for student and citizen volunteers of all ages.
  • Ensure that individuals installing plants are provided with adequate training and supervision.
  • Bring snacks and water.

Consider pretreating reintroduced seeds.

  • If using seeds, consider pretreating seeds to release them from dormancy and sow into permanently marked plots or (Maschinski et al. 2017).

Have a question or info about Rare Plant Reintroduction?


Suggested Citation

Center for Plant Conservation. Implementing the Rare Plant Reintroduction in CPC Best Plant Conservation Practices to Support Species Survival in the Wild. Web Version. Accessed: 09/30/2020 - 5:23pm