Atlanta Botanical Garden

Lauren Eserman, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Conradina glabra, or Apalachicola rosemary, is a federally listed endangered species that exists only on a small area of sandhill in Liberty County, Florida. Forestry practices in the last 100 years have resulted in declining populations of C. glabra. In the wild, plants produce very few seeds, but small plants that resemble seedlings are commonly found. Through a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we are using molecular genetic techniques to understand whether C. glabra is reproducing clonally or via sexual reproduction as well as what factors encourage seed germination. To address this question, we sampled plants from forty locations across Torreya State Park in a spatially explicit experimental design. A plant in the center of a large cluster of individuals was marked and samples were taken from plants in all four cardinal directions from the central plant at designated distances. From these samples, we generated RADseq data resulting in >10,000 SNPs from 564 individual plants. Analyses are still ongoing, but early results point to spatially structured genetic variation. Individuals share highly similar genotypes at distances < 1 meter; however, are genetically distinct at distances greater than 1 meter. These results suggest that Conradina glabra is perhaps clonal at very small geographic scales but is generally reproducing sexually across its range. Furthermore, we identify areas with unique genetic variation that is important for conservation. The results of this study are being communicated to land managers who are tasked with preserving this species on the ground.

Date Recorded: 
Friday, October 9, 2020

Jessica L. Allen, PhD, Southeastern Center for Conservation, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Dr. Allen outlines a conservation genomics approach to assessing genetic diversity between geographically separated populations of the Rock Gnome lichen, a Southern Appalachian endemic. Her results show that each locale sampled has a genetically distinct population. This suggests that the management plan for this lichen should include protecting all of the occurrences in order to preserve the greatest amount of genetic diversity within the species.

Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

From the SePPCon 2020 conference, three inspiring videos:

The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Dr. Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Featuring Dwayne Estes, SGI Director, and Theo Witsell, SGI Chief Ecologist. Filmed and edited by Pamela Pasco.

This 15-minute video takes you on a journey across the Southeast and through time, to learn more about the habitats that have been largely erased from society’s collective memory: the incredibly diverse native grasslands of the Southeastern United States. Be introduced to the concept of an “old growth grassland,” characterized by hundreds of native grasses, sedges, wildflowers, and shrubs, as well as dozens of species of birds and countless insects. You’ll learn why the myth of the squirrel that could travel from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River is just that: a myth that has been debunked by recent ecological and historical research. Get introduced to the complicated and diverse mosaic of forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands that once existed across the South. You’ll discover that while Southern grasslands may not be as vast as their Midwestern cousins, what they lack in size is made up for by their astounding diversity. These include treeless prairies, open oak woodlands and pine savannas, rocky glades, high elevation grass balds in the Southern Blue Ridge, and open wet meadows, fens and bogs. Learn about the importance of conservative grassland species, such as the May Prairie Aster, discovered in 2008, which occurs only in a single 10-acre prairie remnant and nowhere else in the world. These conservative species can only grow in high quality grasslands, indicating sites of conservation value. Discover the grasslands that are hidden “in plain sight” throughout the Southeast, and find out the surprising sites on the landscape that still host many grassland plants and pollinators such as the Monarch butterfly.  Witness an unplanned grassland loss that occurred in real time during filming of this video, and learn why our native grassland remnants of just 1 to 20 acres are critical–not only as habitat for rare species such as the Northern Bobwhite-- but also to any hope we have of restoring our native grassland heritage. You’ll see that native grasslands in the Southeast are still yielding amazing discoveries of new plant and animal species each year. Find out the surprising ways in which agricultural practices have been kind to our grasslands, and be assured that there is cause for hope.

Longleaf for the Long Run Carol Denhof, President, Longleaf Alliance

The Longleaf Pine was once the dominant tree species in the southern United States, covering over 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas. Over the last 400 years, this species’ abundance has decreased due to non-sustainable timber harvesting, clearing of land for agriculture and development, and exclusion of fire. However, the overall decline of this ecosystem has been halted due to a coordinated effort by landowners and partners in the southeast to restore this iconic Southern forest that is among the most biologically diverse habitats in North America. The Longleaf Alliance (LLA) works in partnership with private landowners, federal and state agencies, other NGOs, and industry to guide the restoration, stewardship, and conservation of the longleaf pine ecosystem. This outreach video, produced by Abel Klainbaum for LLA, is intended to raise awareness of this unique native ecosystem in the general public. The information presented, through the shared perspectives of four active members of the longleaf community

Piedmont Prairie Initiative Rua Mordicai, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Science Applications Rickie White, Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden Jim Affolter, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Jennifer Ceska, State Botanical Garden of Georgia Dr. Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden Alan Weakley, North Carolina Botanical Garden Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative Julie Tuttle, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The Piedmont is home to one of the fastest-growing urban megaregions in the country, stretching from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta and into Birmingham, AL. Historically, much of the region was covered in grasslands, including pine-oak savannas and open treeless prairies, maintained by frequent fire and grazing by bison and elk. Most Piedmont residents don’t know that the thick upland forests they see today were very different before European arrival. This is one of the major barriers to bringing grasslands back to the region. The Piedmont Prairie Partnership is a group of non-profit, state, and federal agencies working to bring back Piedmont Prairies in an area from Virginia down to Alabama. Late in 2019 to early 2020, the partnership created two videos to help tell the story of the past, present, and future of prairies in the Piedmont.

Date Recorded: 
Monday, March 2, 2020

Safeguarding Mountain Bog and the Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant

Carrie Radcliffe, Atlanta Botanical Garden (SePPCon 2016)

Wetland species are particularly at high risk of extinction. The Mountain Bog Safeguarding is a Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance signature project that seeks to safeguard bog endemics from one of the rarest habitats in Georgia. This entails conservation horticulture, research, education and reintroduction. Meticulous records of a suite of rare bog endemic species kept during ex situ management allow for careful reintroduction to appropriate safeguarding sites in the wild. Carrie reviews the example of Mountain purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana).

This work was presented at the Southeast Partners in Plant Conservation (SePPCon) 2016 Meeting. Learn more about SePPCon here.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Emily Coffey, Atlanta Botanical Garden

In October 2018, the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia were devastated by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 hurricane with wind bursts up to 200 mph. The entire native range for the critically endangered Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia) lay within the hurricane’s path. Initial reports from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Florida’s Torreya State Park estimated 80-90% forest canopy loss across the three-county range of the endangered native conifer. Site visits soon after the hurricane by Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) conservation staff confirmed these estimates, noting downed trees throughout the woodland and ravine habitat where T. taxifolia are found, as well as T. taxifolia individuals buried in the debris or completely crushed by fallen overstory trees.

The scale of damage across T. taxifolia habitat following Hurricane Michael is unprecedented. In order to successfully assess the resilience and recovery of the remaining wild T. taxifolia population, ABG proposed a four-year plan. This plan includes surveys of the known T. taxifolia trees, removal of debris, and collection of cuttings for the safeguarding collections, establishment of baseline research experiments examining abiotic and biotic factors resulting from Hurricane Michael, long-term monitoring, shade vs. sun experiments ex situ, and population genetics research.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Emily E. D. Coffey, Ph.D., Atlanta Botanical Garden

Torreya taxifolia, known as the Florida Torreya, is one of the rarest conifers in the world. Once found as a canopy tree, Torreya is an evergreen dioecious tree endemic to a narrow range of bluffs and ravines adjacent to the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida and extreme southwest Georgia. In the mid-Twentieth Century, this species suffered a catastrophic decline as all reproductive age trees died from a disease (Fusarium torrayae) that remained unknown until very recently. In the decades that followed, this species did not recover. What remains is a population approximately 0.22% of its original size, which is subjected to changes in hydrology, forest structure, heavy browsing by deer, loss of reproduction capability, as well as dieback from fungal disease. Atlanta Botanical Garden’s dedication and efforts to protect Torreya has furthered understanding of its ecology and life cycle as well as the decline of this once majestic species. We present the new in-situ and ex-situ seed experiment we are conducting at ABG as part of the recovery effort for this species.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 4, 2018