Rare Plant Habitat Protection on Butler Conservation Fund’s Black River, SC Private Lands: Macbridea caroliniana on a Fire-Managed Disturbed Site, Stewartia malacodendron and Collinsonia sp. on Remnant Levee Patches, and Isoetes hymenalis on a Road

Butler Conservation Fund (land owner), USFWS (affiliate), Cecelia Dailey, M.S. Candidate, The Citadel; Dr. Richard D. Porcher, Dr. Joel Gramling, Dr. Jean Everett, Dr. Timothy Callahan, Michael Kunz, April Punsalan, Dr. John Nelson, Keith A. Bradley, Dr. Brian Scholtens, Dr. Jay F. Bolin, Peter Schafran, Steve Bowling, Dana Beach, Jonathan Keyser, Nathan Platt, and Kevin Lloyd Hill.

Butler Conservation Fund of Great Neck, NY owns 2 tracts of land on the Black River, SC with diverse habitat and several rare plants. The two most spectacular are Carolina bogmint, Macbridea caroliniana (blooming July-September) and silky camellia, Stewartia malacodendron (found blooming in April and October). The diminutive Isoetes hymenalis (quillwort) was discovered on a powerline cut and an old road, and identified using DNA Flow Cytometry. A Collinsonia sp. (thought to be C. tuberosa) is growing twice as large as typically observed, indicating that the location might be nutrient-rich or calcium-rich, found near the Stewartia site. Educating about threatened plants (especially the less-than-spectacular), gaining insight into their communities and biogeography, and providing management recommendations is a part of Dailey’s job for the Butler Conservation Fund. A large population of Macbridea caroliniana (Carolina bogmint) was discovered in 2019 and Dailey performed a seed collection project separated by maternal line for UNC Chapel Hill Botanical Garden, and USFWS for propagation and study of seed biology at Bears Bluff Fish Hatchery greenhouse. Plants grown will be installed for public access, with education signage. This disturbance-loving species is usually found in light gaps in the swamp, mowed areas, and ditches, but the Black River hosts the only population known to be managed with fire. Dailey has applied for a USFWS grant to document populations in South Carolina, collect seed, and study the habitat including plant community, groundwater, and soil attributes. The pink-striped flowers are large for a mint, an exciting floral display in the summer heat. Dailey has also found a white flowering plant (a rare variation). Stewartia malacodendron discovered was reported by Porcher to be the largest he’d seen in his 50-year career, found on a slope in a patch of remnant levee formed by the Black River. Study of the population and propagation by rooting is underway. With saucer-sized white flowers and purple stamens pointed toward the sky, this native understory shrub has innate beauty to the human eye. The Butler Conservation Fund working in association with Dana Beach (retired head of the Coastal Conservation League) hosts canoe trips and group events. Creation of hiking trails and additional plans for public access are progressing through 2020. Challenges and successes of private land conservation will be discussed.

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