Lauritzen Gardens

Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens

Blowout penstemon (Penstemon haydenii) is a critically imperiled (G1) plant listed as an endangered species by the USFWS. It is presently known from ten occurrences in the Nebraska Sandhills and three in the Ferris Dunes of Wyoming. This species is associated with areas of active wind erosion within a grassland matrix. The dynamic, transitory nature of this habitat can result in natural population decline in response to changes in microhabitat conditions and associated vegetation cover. The geographic isolation of such habitat limits recruitment from other occurrences, increasing vulnerability to local extinction. Recent surveys in Nebraska and Wyoming suggest substantial population declines. Lauritzen Gardens is undertaking a seed banking effort for blowout penstemon that entails a systematic, range-wide sampling of as many extant populations as is logistically possible and biologically prudent. This project presents many challenges, particularly since most blowout penstemon populations occur in remote locations on privately-owned ranches. Complications include obtaining landowner contact information in a sparsely-populated region, securing permission to access private property, and reaching remote occurrences in difficult terrain. Meeting these challenges has required careful relationship-building with government agencies, NGOs, knowledgeable researchers, landowners, land managers, and other partners.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Friday, May 3, 2019

Jim Locklear, Lauritzen Gardens

Research into the biology and conservation needs of an at-risk plant species can lead to better understanding of the plant community that supports the species and inform ecosystem scale conservation efforts. This has been the experience of Lauritzen Gardens in working with Dalea cylindriceps (Fabaceae), a G3 species native to the western Great Plains. Our field survey for this rare prairie clover revealed a strong association with sandsage prairie, a shrub-steppe community that is of conservation concern in five states in the Great Plains. Given the need to understand the dynamics of this vegetation, we are now engaged in an initiative to identify the processes and patterns that sustain the ecological health and integrity of sandsage prairie. We recently conducted a multi-species (14 taxa) rare plant survey in the sandsage region of Nebraska and this year will undertake a reconnaissance survey of sandsage prairie throughout its range in the Great Plains. This work will result in the first comprehensive publication on the ecology and floristic composition of sandsage prairie and will hopefully yield insights that will inform conservation management practices.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018