Southern Appalachians

Brenda L. Wicchman, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Chris Stoehrel U.S. Forest Service, Cherokee National Forest

Caitlin Elam Tennessee Natural Heritage Program, Division of Natural Areas

Some of the rarest wetlands in the southeastern United States are the non-alluvial wetlands of the Blue Ridge region. Many of these wetlands are current conservation areas or priorities and these wetlands, colloquially known as bogs, harbor many rare and endemic plant species as well as globally rare plant communities. Targets for conservation priority have traditionally been the lower reaches of these systems which contain the concentrated rare species occurrences, while not considering the sources of hydrology, the headwaters. We will discuss a non-profit, federal, and state partnership approach to enhancing the resiliency of these systems through holistic ecosystem protection in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hannah Cook, M.S. Candidate, Biology, Western Carolina University

Stenanthium gramineum (Ker. Gawler) Morong, commonly known as “Eastern Featherbells” is a perennial herb that occurs in the Southern Appalachians and more broadly throughout the midwestern, southwestern and eastern U.S. Historically, this species has been under-studied, and is taxonomically unclear. Currently, two varieties are recognized, distinguished in part by habitat differences. Stenanthium gramineum var. gramineum is considered a rock-outcrop species throughout its large range of the southwestern, midwestern and eastern U.S., but also occurs on grassy balds and serpentine barrens of the Southern Appalachians. Stenanthium gramineum var. robustum (S. Watson) Fernald is said to be found in bogs and wet meadows; it is listed as endangered and threatened throughout its native range of the eastern U.S., causing need for special attention. A third variety, S. gramineum var. micranthum Fernald, is not currently recognized, but was described on the basis of its unique granitic dome rock outcrop habitat. It appears to be extremely rare, and seems to be exclusive to a small range within the eastern U.S. In sum, each of these varieties occupy unique, sensitive habitat, and potentially could be recognized as separate species, as they may display discrete differences in morphological characteristics. The goal of this project was to investigate morphological and ecological characteristics of the three S. gramineum varieties in order to clarify their taxonomy and aid conservation. During the summer and fall of 2019, I located seven flowering populations of two taxa (var. gramineum and var. robustum) in the Southern Appalachians, measured morphological and environmental characters in the field and collected samples for morphological, leaf anatomical and pollen analysis. To expand the dataset, I measured multiple morphological characters on herbarium specimens from throughout the ranges of each taxon. Multivariate analysis will be performed to determine whether two or more distinct entities can be discriminated based on these data. This study should clarify the taxonomic status of var. robustum and identify the most reliable characters used to define it, and should facilitate identification and conservation of this rare taxon.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020